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Samsung debuts a smarter, more capable S Pen

Tablets and pens have gone hand in hand since the days of cuneiform and the original Galaxy Note. However, as the Notes (as well as Tabs and Notebooks) themselves have advanced in capability over the past few years, their styli generally haven’t kept pace. However at Wednesday’s Galaxy Note 8 announcement, Samsung revealed that the venerable S Pen is about to receive a timely update as well, enabling it to act more like a real pen.

For starters, the newly-improved S Pen features the same fine tip and pressure sensitivity as the Note 7, which tablet-based artists are sure to appreciate. That’s 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and a 0.7mm tip for those yearning for the exact numbers. And, when used in conjunction with the new Galaxy Note 8, users will be able to much more than produce better digital artworks. Rather than type out their SMS messages, for example, users will be able to write out their missives by hand. They’ll also have the option to write a note in using Live Message, apply special effects and then share it as an animated Gif on a variety of social media platforms.

The writing system itself is getting faster as well. On older models, if you wanted jot down a quick note, you’d have to pull out the S Pen from its holster and unlock the screen before you could start writing. But with the Screen Off memo feature, you’ll be able to start writing as soon as the pen clears its dock, without compromising your phone’s security, and then pin it (and up to 99 other pages of text to your Always On Display) for quick access and editing. The S Pen will also help the Globetrotter crowd by allowing them to translate entire sentences (and currencies) simply by hovering over the text string.

Update: This post has been updated to clarify the pen tip and pressure sensitivity on the Note 8 S Pen are the same as the stylus that arrived with the Note 7.

Follow all the latest news from Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 event here!


‘Live Message’ on the Galaxy Note 8 lets you draw all over photos

While Samsung used to be known for loading up its smartphones with all manner of gimmicky software of questionable utility, the company has pulled back on its Android customizations in recent years. But with today’s unveiling of the Galaxy Note 8, Samsung couldn’t resist showing off a new trick to go along with the phone’s impressive camera system. “Live Messages” lets you shoot a photo and draw on it, much like you can do in Snapchat and Instagram. Naturally, the S Pen and the large screen makes this a little easier than it might be on other devices. But you’re not limited to how you can share it — live messages are converted to GIFs that you can send to anyone you want.

That’s unlike Apple’s Live Photos, which capture a little bit of video before and after a photo is shot to add motion to the image. For the most part, they’re only viewable on other iOS devices, though there are plenty of ways to convert them for viewing elsewhere. You also don’t have to use a photo as the basis of a Live Message — you can also just start drawing and capture the animation and send it, sort of like Apple’s digital touch messages that it first introduced with the Apple Watch.

The downside of live messages, at least as we’ve seen in our testing thus far, is that the the GIFs it creates can be very large — between 10 and 20MB. Of course, this is just our first initial tests. When we put the Galaxy Note 8 through a full review, we’ll dig into the new feature and see how much flexibility there is there.

Follow all the latest news from Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 event here!


Lucha Libre will stream ‘Triplemania XXV’ on Twitch

Triplemania turns 25 this year, and in keeping with its adrenaline-pulsing theatrics you’d expect it to do something pretty special to celebrate, which is why fans will be able to bypass pay-per-view and watch the whole thing live on Twitch. Showcasing what is arguably the match of the decade, between Dr Wagner Jr and Psycho Clown, Triplemania XXV will be broadcast with commentary in English and Spanish, with a “best of” Triplemania marathon leading up to the main event. Viewers can play with wrestling-themed emojis, and the sport’s biggest stars will take to Twitch’s chat function to rile up their fans.

“We have recently seen the Twitch community rally around wrestling content since the sport is also entertainment-driven with engaging personalities and supported by passionate fans,” said Emett Shear, CEO at Twitch. “With AAA Worldwide being among the industry’s biggest wrestling organizations and lucha libre holding a special place in pop culture, our involvement with Triplemania XXV marks a fun and fascinating milestone.” The Triplemania pre-show marathon on Twitch starts on August 24 at 3pm PDT, with the live broadcast of Triplemania XXV starting on August 26 at 5pm PDT.


Samsung details safety measures for the Note 8 battery

Samsung is well aware that its facing an uphill battle with the Note 8. Specifically, with its battery following last year’s fiery Note 7 debacle. As a way of rebuilding public trust, the company has been extremely stringent and rigorous in its safety tests. Watchdog group Underwriters Labs announced that it’s been working with the Korean tech giant to ensure reliability for the Note 8’s power supply.

“We have been closely working with Samsung to make meaningful advancements in the science of smartphone quality and safety evaluation,” UL president Sajeev Jesudas said in a statement. “As a result, the Note 8 has successfully completed a rigorous series of device and battery safety compatibility test protocols. We look forward to maintaining our strategic relationship with Samsung to help ensure device safety for all consumers.”

That’s in addition to the battery passing Samsung’s internal eight-point safety testing. The outfit tapped UL early this year to conduct an independent review of the batteries; this relationship isn’t brand new. Samsung is even going so far as to switch battery suppliers, changing from longtime partner ATL for its flagship handsets to those made internally and with the help of Murata, according to The Investor.

Last October it was revealed that Samsung sidestepped third-party testing services for its batteries, and instead tested in-house, exclusively. We all know how that ended, but with this announcement, combined with how the company bounced back with the Galaxy S8 earlier this year, it seems like Samsung’s learned from its mistakes.

Follow all the latest news from Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 event here!

Source: The Investor


Samsung will unveil its next Gear S smartwatch on August 30th

The Galaxy Note 8 isn’t going to be Samsung’s only big mobile offering this fall. Mobile chief DJ Koh tells CNBC that the next Gear S smartwatch will make its debut at the IFA trade show, where Samsung will have an event on August 30th. The executive isn’t saying much about what this wristwear will entail, of course, but he might have dropped some clues when opining about the struggling wearables market. He believes that smartwatches could become more valuable if they monitor more aspects of your health — don’t be surprised if the Gear S4 (or whatever it’s called) tracks more of your vital stats.

This might not be Samsung’s only wrist-worn device at IFA, either. Leaks have pointed to a Gear Fit 2 Pro in the works, and Samsung itself inadvertently posted a listing for the device (since taken down) before the Note 8 event began. Based on that page, the Gear Fit 2 Pro will revolve around swim tracking, with a 5 ATM water-resistant design and stat tracking through a Speedo app. You’d also get a more traditional watch buckle (to keep the device on your wrist mid-swim) and offline Spotify music playback. There’s no guarantee that the Pro will debut at IFA, but it makes sense as a complement to the Gear S line.

Follow all the latest news from Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 event here!

Source: CNBC


The Galaxy Note 8 vs. the Note 7: What’s changed?

Last year the Galaxy Note 7 was actually one of our favorite phones until it started exploding, so we’re happy to see Samsung’s line of large-screen-with-stylus handsets make its return today with the Note 8. While it would have been easy enough to simply change out the battery and call it a new model, there are a few other changes worth noting. That includes the dual camera, which we’ve never seen in a Samsung phone before, and the Note now comes packed with AI assistant Bixby. While we certainly hope you turned in your Note 7 during the recall, check out our chart below to see what upgrades await if you pick up a Note 8 when it comes out, as well as if this new phone has the potential to become one of our faves of 2017.

Galaxy Note 8
Galaxy Note 7
Varies by carrier, starts at $930
Varies by carrier, starts at $850 (off-contract)
Known dimensions
162.5 x 74.8 x 8.6mm (6.40 x 2.94 x 0.34 inches)
153.5 x 73.9 x 7.9mm (6.04 x 2.91 x 0.31 inches)
195g (6.9 ounces)
169g (5.96 ounces)
Screen size
6.3 inches (160.02mm)
5.7 inches (144.78mm)
Screen resolution
2,960 x 1,440 (521ppi)
2,560 x 1,440 (515ppi)
Screen type
Quad HD Super AMOLED
Quad HD Super AMOLED
Internal storage
External storage
Rear camera
Dual cameras:
12MP, f/1.7 (wide angle)
12MP, f/2.4 (telephoto)
12MP, f/1.7, 1.4µm pixel size
Front-facing camera
8MP, f/1.7
5MP, f/1.7
Video capture
Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
2.35GHz quad-core
2.15GHz quad-core
Adreno 540
Adreno 530
Dual band, 802.11ac
Dual band, 802.11ac
Operating system
Android 7.1.1
Android 6.0
Notable features
Iris scanner, fingerprint sensor, IP68 certified, USB Type-C
Iris scanner, fingerprint sensor, IP68 certified, USB Type-C


Samsung’s Note 8 has a 6.3-inch screen and an £869 price tag

Samsung totally botched the refresh of its big-screened Galaxy Note line last year, but thankfully, an exploding battery doesn’t seem to be among the new Note 8’s feature set. As you’d expect from a 2017 flagship phablet, the Note 8 has bags of power with its octa-core Snapdragon 835 chipset and 6GB of RAM. The star of the show is obviously the sprawling, curved 6.3-inch Super AMOLED Infinity display and its Quad HD+ resolution — oh, and the S Pen stylus to go with it. The dual-camera-wielding smartphone is available to pre-order in the UK starting today, either on contract or SIM-free for the cringe-inducing price of £869.

If your pockets are deep enough, you can reserve a Galaxy Note 8 right now on Samsung’s site or at Carphone Warehouse, ahead of the retail launch on Sept. 15th. No doubt a few other retailers will have their own pre-order pages up within the next 24 hours or so.

Naturally, Carphone Warehouse will also be happy to flog you a Note 8 on contract for an up-front payment as low as £10. EE has a handful of contracts on offer with dowries ranging from £30 to £90, while O2 wants at least £50 on the door. Three is opening up pre-orders for the device tomorrow, and at the time of this writing, online pre-orders at Vodafone have yet to go live.

MVNOs Sky Mobile and Virgin Mobile are accepting pre-orders from today, too, and we’d expect probably giffgaff and Tesco Mobile, at least, to join them soon. Every pre-order, regardless of retailer or network provider, includes the bonus prize of a free Samsung DeX dock that lets you to turn the Note 8 into something of a desktop. Yay for productivity! And happy hunting.

Follow all the latest news from Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 event here!


‘Star Wars Battlefront II’ adds tactical weight to space combat

As my T-65B X-Wing glides into view, I survey the scene up ahead. TIE fighters chase after nimble A-Wings, a flurry of green laser fire in their wake. A group of X-Wings circle an Imperial Cruiser, unloading proton torpedoes in a desperate attempt to lower the Empire’s defences. To my left, I spot some TIE Interceptors headed toward my fellow X-Wings. Instinctively I barrel forward and harry them before a well-timed missile turns my ship into space debris. My heroics were short-lived, but I’m soon able to pick a new vehicle and rejoin the fray, gaining my revenge on the TIE Bomber that so casually stopped me before.

I’m playing Starfighter Assault, a new mode in Star Wars Battlefront II that build ons the space dogfights offered in its predecessor. It’s being developed by Criterion, a studio best known for its work on Burnout and Need for Speed. During the last Battlefront’s development, the team was brought in to fine-tune the speeder bikes found on the forest world of Endor. Later, it made a free expansion for PlayStation VR which let you pilot an X-Wing during the events of Rogue One. These contributions, while important, pale in comparison to what it’s building for Battlefront II.

“I think the general opinion was that [people] wanted more space battles,” Rob Wyle, producer at Criterion said. “They wanted more time in ships and they wanted a bit more depth in the kinds of experiences they were getting. So that’s what we’re trying to provide.”


Starfighter Assault pits two teams, each with 12 player-controlled ships, in various dogfighting scenarios. It’s an evolution of the simple “Fighter Squadron” mode found in the last Battlefront and the three-phase “Battle Station” experience introduced in its Death Star expansion. At Gamescom, I was able to play a mission that takes place above Fondor, around a strategic Imperial shipyard. As the Rebel Alliance, it was my job to obliterate the base. The mission was broken down into three phases; unlike Battle Station, these all took place in the air, however. They involved whittling down the Imperial defences, destroying some crucial shield projectors and finally, damaging the couplings that protect the ship’s vulnerable reactor.

There’s no time limit, but you have a limited number of rebel ships at your disposal. Once your starighter has been destroyed, you’ll need to claim a new one from this collective pool, which serves almost as a health bar for the resistance. If you play as the Empire, it’s your job to keep the Rebels at bay and clear this stockpile of ships before they’re able to complete the mission. The two objectives are connected but distinct from one another, pushing players to team up and focus their fire in different ways.

Jeff Seamster, audio and narrative director at Criterion, said each mission is designed to reflect the two sides and their position in the larger conflict. In the case of Fondor, set in the original Star Wars trilogy, it’s a confident Empire against a Rebel Alliance on the verge of extinction. “The Empire, pretty much at the beginning of every day, thinks ‘There’s no way we could possibly lose,’ and the Rebels know at the beginning of every day there’s a very slim chance they’re actually going to win,” he explained.

Those odds have to be reflected in the objectives. Underneath, the odds are even, but on a surface level it should feel like the Rebels are at a severe disadvantage.

“It’s all down to routine play-testing,” he said. “We know right away if it’s like, ‘You know what, it’s just a little too easy for the Rebels to break through,’ or, ‘The Empire is having way too easy a time sitting back on their haunches.’ So we play it and talk about it constantly while we’re not playing it, and how it felt to come away from it. We have these debriefs afterwards where we ask, ‘Did that feel too easy? Did that feel appropriately difficult?’”

That balance feeds into the ships and their different roles. At first, for instance, I enjoyed piloting the A-Wing, which comes under the Interceptor class. It’s a small, agile fighter that can weave elegantly through the more complex architecture found inside the Galactic base. I used this ship to defend my fellow A-Wing bombers, but soon realised that an X-Wing would be better positioned to both protect and support these heavy gunners. As soon as the second objective started — taking out the shield nodes in a trench run-inspired corridor — I switched to the hardier A-Wing and lead the attack, relying on the rest of my player-controlled squadron to cover me.


Whichever ship you choose, there’s a way to contribute. On the Galactic side, for instance, you might want to chase Rebel fighters in a TIE Interceptor. The slower TIE Bomber is equally useful, however, because it can take down the larger Corvettes providing defensive fire for the Rebels. Experienced players will be able to assess the situation and determine where their efforts are needed the most. Newcomers, however, can easily jump in, bounce between ships and still make a meaningful difference in the final outcome.

“We have to balance all the ships against one another,” Wyle said. “As well as the rebels being balanced against Empire. Or rather, we don’t want anything to be too unfair. We want to balance the rebel ships amongst themsevles so that you don’t have everyone saying ‘oh, there’s only one ship to play as because it’s the most powerful one.’ You’ve got to try to put some sort of balance in there.”

Criterion is also keen to make the game newcomer-friendly. While the last Battlefront game had depth, it was clearly designed with accessibility in mind. Starfighter Assault continues this concept with simple, arcade-style handling. The ships are fast, and while it’s possible to crash I never felt that any of them were outside of my control, or too difficult to manoeuvre. “We’ve got a long history of making people feel like they’re in control, even when they’re travelling at impossible speeds,” Seamster said.

“When it comes to speed, we give you just enough rope to hang yourself with.”

“We don’t anybody to come into this game and feel like ‘I’m just no good at flying.’ We want a person to come in, feel like they’re flying any of our starfighters at top speed and be actually amazed at their own ability, that they’re able to keep it under control.”

I did however, still fly into the occasional support beam and TIE fighter. “When it comes to speed, I’d say we give you just enough rope to hang yourself with,” Seamster chuckled.


Defeating enemy players and completing objectives will net you Battle Points, which can be saved up for “Hero” ships. These are unique, powerful vessels that can easily change the momentum of a match. On the Rebel side, I was able to try Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon and the the Black One piloted by Poe Dameron in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It’s here that Starfighter Assault truly swerves into wish fulfilment; while the normal ships are tied to their respective era, the Hero ships cross over, breaking authenticity and, to a degree, the game’s immersion.

“Everyone loves the heroes and wants to play as them,” Wyle said. So we said, ‘Let’s try to put them in every era that we can, and have some fun with it.’ We do keep a lot as authentic as possible. The ships are authentic and they look authentic, and they live in their own eras, for the most part. But the heroes, it’s fantasy fulfilment. You want some of those combos.”

Those “combos” include Darth Maul’s Scimitar, otherwise known as the Sith Infiltrator. The ship is able to cloak itself, disappearing from view until a short window passes or the player chooses to fire their weapon. It’s a vessel from Episode One (Maul’s story does continue through The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, however), which never encounters Solo, Chewbacca and the Millennium Falcon. Here, in Battlefront II, however, I was able to chase the pair down in a tense, high-stakes dogfight, exchanging laser fire until the smugglers were no more. These situations, while a tad bizarre, are hugely enjoyable ‘what if?’ moments.

There will be other missions in Starfighter Assault, but for now Wyle, Seamster and the rest of the Criterion team are staying tight-lipped about them, They did, however, promise that all of them will have a “narrative” that contextualises the objectives and opposing forces.

Battlefront II is a big game. The multiplayer suite, which covers both ground and aerial combat, will include characters and planets from all three film eras. There’s an ambitious story mode too that puts you in the role of Iden Versio, a Galactic “Inferno Squad” soldier, directly after the events of Return of the Jedi. Starfighter Assault is, therefore, just a piece of the game’s expansive offering, but one that Criterion has clearly put a lot of time into. If you’ve ever dreamt of piloting an X-Wing, this is as close as you’re ever going to get. At least until Battlefront III comes along, anyway.

Follow all the latest news live from Gamescom here!


Samsung is giving Note 7 owners a hefty discount on the Note 8

If you were one of the millions of people who had to give up the recalled Galaxy Note 7, fret not, because Samsung has your back. Today, as part of its Unpacked 2017 event in NYC, the company revealed that those of you who owned the previous model will get a hefty discount on the new Note 8. The only thing you have to do is trade in your current device and, depending on the brand and condition of it, you can get up to $425 off the latest Note smartphone. If you’re interested in the juicy mea culpa offer from Samsung, you’ll be able to take advantage of it on Aug. 24th, the day pre-orders go live on its website.

It’s worth noting that this seems to be only for US customers who purchased a Note 7, but we have contacted Samsung to find out if it plans to run a similar promo elsewhere.

Follow all the latest news from Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 event here!


Facebook’s mobile apps now take 360-degree photos

Standalone cameras and apps that can take 360-degree photos and videos are a must if they’re essential to your job or if they fit your lifestyle. But if you find yourself taking spherical images merely once in a blue moon, you may not need them at all. Facebook’s iOS and Android apps can now capture 360-degree photos without the help of a third-party application or an extra device. All you have to do is launch the app and pick the “360 Photo” option at the top of your News Feed. Press the blue button and follow the path on screen to complete a full spherical image — you can then choose the photo’s starting point.

Just like any picture you take from within the app, you can share your 360 shots directly to your Timeline or upload them to a specific album. Facebook has also added a couple of new features for any spherical shot you upload: you can now zoom in on them and tag your friends. You can now also use them as Cover Photos — that should’ve been the case from the start, but this is the first time Facebook has given the Cover Photos feature a refresh.

Facebook says the in-app ability to take 360 Photos and all these other features are rolling out worldwide starting today. You’ll get access to them soon enough if they haven’t popped up in your app yet.

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