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HTC is laying off 1,500 employees from its manufacturing department

In other words, around 22% of HTC’s entire workforce.

When it rains, it pours for HTC. Early in the morning on July 2, 2018, the company revealed that it was laying off 1,500 employees.


All of those 1,500 people (around 22% of HTC’s entire workforce) come from HTC’s manufacturing division in Taiwan, and HTC says that it made the decision as part of its ongoing quest to become profitable once again.

An event like this would be bad enough on its own, but if you’ve been following HTC for the past few months, you’ll know that all of 2018 has been a rough one for the once-great Android giant.

Where does HTC go from here?

In mid-February, HTC’s mobile president announced he was leaving to pursue a “personal career plan.” Just a few days after that, it was reported that HTC had laid off up to 100 of its U.S.-based employees as part of the decision to merge the smartphone and VR divisions together under one umbrella.

As for the products HTC’s been kicking out, it’s been a mixed bag. The U12+ has the makings of a great Android phone, but the pressure-sensitive “buttons” that the phone uses results in an irritating user experience more times than not. The Vive Pro is undoubtedly one of the most powerful VR headsets you can buy right now, but at $799 for just the headset and none of the other required accessories, it’s an incredibly tough purchase. Also, what the heck’s going on with the blockchain phone?

HTC’s not totally out for the count quite yet, but this most recent move sure doesn’t leave a lot of hope for the company’s future.

What do you think is going to happen to HTC?

HTC U12+ review: Buttonless blunder


After using Chrome OS for four months, I never want to go back

If you still haven’t tried Chrome OS, now’s the time to do so.


Even though I’ve been enthralled by Android since the original Galaxy S Fascinate on Verizon Wireless, it took me until this year to finally give Google’s desktop operating system — Chrome OS — a proper try.

I dabbled with Chrome OS a bit back at my high school on education-focused machines, but I’ve never actually owned a proper “adult” Chromebook to get an idea for how the platform works and feels on a day-to-day basis.

So, this past February, I decided to sell my late-2016 MacBook Pro and replace it with the Google Pixelbook. If you want to know more about the Pixelbook itself, we’ve already covered that a number of times here on AC.

Instead, what I’d like to do today is highlight my experiences using Chrome OS as my primary laptop operating system for the past four months. Let’s get started!

The things I absolutely love


When I first got the Pixelbook, one of the things I was worried about the most was the lack of desktop apps. This is something that most everyone still complains about when it comes to Chrome OS, but to be perfectly honest, that complaint just isn’t valid anymore in mid-2018.

First off, before we even talk about the app selection that there is, I was amazed at how much of my work is done in the Chrome browser. Between writing articles, searching for the latest news, doing research for editorials, and even some light photo editing, all of the things I need to do can be done (and enjoyable at that) in Chrome.

In mid-2018, the argument that Chrome OS doesn’t have enough app support simply isn’t true anymore.

Slack’s web client is great, 1Password’s Chrome plug-in works like a dream, and web apps like PicMonkey make it easy to do quick edits for all sorts of photos.

While all of my work can be done in Chrome tabs, I really appreciate how Google lets you save these as “app” shortcuts in your app drawer/bottom bar and open them up as their own windows to make them appear like traditional desktop applications.

For those times that I can’t do something in Chrome or just want a more touch-friendly way to interact with a service, Android apps are excellent for filling that gap. The Play Store looks and feels exactly as it does on Android, and since I spend so much time on my phone as is, I appreciate having the same app interface when going from phone to laptop.

Something else that’s really stuck out to me is how updates are handled. I absolutely dread seeing that I’ve got updates waiting when I boot up my iMac, and even though I know I probably shouldn’t, I’ve become that person that keeps pressing “Try later tonight” whenever I see one pop up.

In Chrome OS, this has been a non-issue.

Any big system updates are downloaded in the background, and when they’re ready to install, all I have to do is click a button and my system is completely rebooted and back up and running in a matter of seconds. This is something that’s been around in Chrome OS for a while, but it’s a feature I constantly appreciate whenever a new bit of software rolls around.

The stuff that still needs some work


For all the praise I could give to Chrome OS, however, that’s not to say it’s without its faults.

Although it’s functional enough for my needs, the built-in file manager isn’t quite as comprehensive as what’s found on macOS and Windows. Even though Chrome OS can run Android apps, it doesn’t support Nougat’s App Shortcuts. As silly as it may sound, the fact that there’s no native way to insert emoji (at least right now) drives me up a tree every single day.

Every operating system has its quirks, and Chrome OS is no exception to that rule.

The upside

With that said, the majority of these complaints will disappear soon enough.

Chrome OS is only going to get more exciting as time goes on.

Google regularly pushes updates to Chrome OS with an assortment of bug fixes and new features, and in the very near future, we should get an assortment of tools that finally give Android phones proper integration with Chrome OS — bringing features such as SMS syncing, instant tethering, and more.

Once all that happens, Chrome OS will not only stand on its own as a proper competitor to Windows and macOS, but it’ll be the clear choice for anyone that also happens to own an Android phone.

This is something Apple’s succeeded at for years with Continuity between iPhones and Macs, and once that same integration comes to Android and Chrome OS, it’s going to be an incredibly exciting time.

What do you like/dislike the most about Chrome OS?

I’ve been overwhelmingly happy with my decision to go the Chrome OS route this year, and I cannot wait to see where the platform is heading in the next few months. It’s certainly not for everyone, but then again, neither is Windows, macOS, or Linux.

If you’ve got a Chrome OS machine, what do you like or dislike about it the most? Sound off in the comments below and let me know!

Pixelbook 2: What Google can do to make the best Chromebook even better


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How to Get Samsung Software Updates Faster Using Smart Switch


There is another way.

We all have plenty to complain about when it comes to software updates landing on our Samsung phones. Right now it’s the slow rollout of Oreo, but we’ll soon feel the same way about the next one. But sometimes it isn’t Samsung’s fault that you don’t yet have the latest update — issues with carriers and even the current software on your phone can prevent your phone from downloading an update even when it’s actually “available” to your model.

That’s where Samsung’s own desktop software, Smart Switch, comes in. Despite its core feature being backing up and restoring data when switching phones, it has the added benefit of being able to download and update the software on your Samsung phone. Here’s how it works.

How to manually update your Samsung phone using Smart Switch

Go to Samsung’s Smart Switch website and download for PC or Mac.
Install and open Smart Switch on your computer and connect your phone via its USB cable.
If you haven’t plugged in to your computer before, tap Allow on the pop-up on your phone to give it access.

  • If Smart Switch doesn’t recognize the phone, click the menu in Smart Switch and click Reinstall device driver then restart.

After a few moments, your phone will be recognized by Smart Switch and you’ll see several options on the main screen for backing up and restoring. You do not need to back up or restore your phone to initiate an update.
A software check is performed when you plug in, and Smart Switch will list your current software details. If there is a software update available for your phone, you’ll be notified on the main screen.
If available, Click Update to install the latest software. It will download first to your computer, then sideload to your phone.

  • The phone will reboot, and the process will take roughly 10 minutes.

If this will be your preferred update method going forward, click the menu (Preferences on Mac) in Smart Switch, click Software Updates and check the box for Update Pre-Download.

  • When a new software version is available for your phone, Smart Switch will download it and then apply the next time you plug in.

To be clear, this isn’t going to force an update onto your phone that Samsung has yet to release. Unless Samsung and your carrier (where applicable) have signed off on and released an update for your exact phone, there’s no way to get it.

Hooking up to Smart Switch can get you an update quicker, though, in cases where your carrier is slowly rolling out an update over the air (OTA) or the update checker on your phone for whatever reason won’t download an update. If you’re impatient, it’s absolutely worth having this tool at the ready.

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+

  • Galaxy S9 and S9+: Everything you need to know!
  • Galaxy S9 review: A great phone for the masses
  • Complete Galaxy S9 and S9+ specs
  • Galaxy S9 vs. Galaxy S8: Should you upgrade?
  • Join our Galaxy S9 forums


Update May 2018: Added fresh information reflecting Smart Switch’s usefulness for a variety of Samsung models, including the new Galaxy S9.


Madden NFL 19 for PlayStation 4: Everything you need to know

See you on the gridiron.


Madden is back, and EA has made a lot of changes this year to make the annual purchase worth considering. We’re here to tell you everything that’s new in Madden NFL 19, with big changes to gameplay, franchise mode, broadcast graphics, and an all-new Longshot story mode to spend your time with. This is everything you need to know.

What’s Madden NFL 19?

Madden is the annual NFL football franchise and the only game of its kind on the market. It features all 32 NFL teams, their players, and even some Hall of Famers and legends in some modes. The game aims to deliver a deep, satisfying gameplay experience for casual and serious football fans alike.

Longshot story mode returns


Let’s begin with Longshot, the story mode of Madden that was introduced in last year’s version of the game. Longshot followed Devin Wade (Quarterback) and Colt Cruise (Wide Receiver), two college players who find themselves on the road to the NFL draft.

You help guide the two to the promised land by helping them land on a show called The Longshot. While football ability was a big part of getting them to the big leagues, it was also your decisions off the field which determined your success. The two eventually get drafted to their respective teams, and it’s happily ever after.

Except, that story mode is back for Madden 19, and it matures with the continuance of their stories. They’re no longer prospects, but actual NFL players, and that comes with a whole new set of challenges.

While we don’t know the specifics of the story just yet (except for the fact that Devin Wade starts his career with the Dallas Cowboys and Colt Cruise is in the wind), EA has mentioned that this year’s Longshot will have a bigger emphasis on actual football gameplay. This means that player skill will be even more important. And both on-field and off-field happenings have been heavily influenced by actual NFL goings-on.

Once the story mode wraps up, you’ll be able to use Wade and Cruise in modes like Franchise and Madden Ultimate Team. The previous game also had other celebrity characters such as Dan Marino, Chad Johnson (Chad Ochocinco), and Mahershala Ali, all of whom could also be played. We don’t know if this year’s game will have more guest appearances.

New gameplay features


Madden 19 is getting a wealth of new gameplay changes this year. The bulk of the changes deal with player motion. EA has added all new animations and a more realistic physics engine to make player movement feel as real as possible.

One of the biggest things working toward that goal is managing your player’s Acceleration Burst, as it will determine the kind of running you can do. The faster you move, the less drastic your directional changes can be. You’ll need to slow down if you want to make wide, sweeping turns and cuts. That doesn’t mean you can’t fake out a defender while going full speed – you’ll still have your special ball carrier moves to help with that – but it’s going to be harder. It adds a nice risk vs. reward element to the core gameplay experience.

This system lends itself to several subsystems, too. A new one-cut move for running backs allows you to take a sharp cut into a new direction as long as you time the new Acceleration Burst mechanic right. Defenders can gain access to the same ability to help shut that move down.


There are other many cool gameplay changes, too. You can now branch special moves together in fluid motion, so the ability to juke into a spin back into a juke is a thing. It’ll likely be difficult to pull off, and it’s probably mostly dependent on the attributes your player has.

A new hit-the-hole mechanic allows you to find your way through the clogged up line of scrimmage with the flick of an analog stick. Hit the wrong hole and you’re just as likely to be tackled where you stand.

You can even push the pile as the running back, giving you the ability to let your big linemen up front do the dirty work to pick up a tough extra few yards when you can’t find your way through the line.

In the passing game, defenders and receivers will enjoy a more realistic suite of animations, reactions, and moves for reacting to the ball. The goal here is to give players more control over the outcome of a catch. EA admitted in the past that the jump ball situation can be a bit pre-determined, so this is something fans should be happy to hear.


On the defensive side of the ball, you’ll see fine tuning to AI and logic for several formations, including Cover 2, Cover 3, Cover 4, Tampa 2, and more. An entirely new formation that features three safeties out of its five defensive backs is also being added, and it comes with a whole new suite of plays of its own.

And on the fun side of things, touchdown celebrations are coming back! It’s not that we haven’t had celebrations before, but they weren’t emphasized due to Madden’s need to adhere to the NFL’s strict public image. But the NFL famously loosened restrictions on player and team touchdown celebrations last year, so Madden 19 will allow you to take part in interactive celebrations using your right analog stick.

There will be generic moves such as a spike or a dance, but you can also pull off a Player Signature move, if available. If you’re feeling especially competitive, you can even steal the signature move from a player of the opposing team to rub it in real good. EA is planning on updating the game with new celebrations as the year goes on, too, so you’ll have a chance to see some of the new moves that are sure to pop up each and every Sunday.


With all these great additions comes the need for updated controls. Thankfully, EA has already given us the layout of what to expect so you can start adjusting your muscle memory.

Franchise mode revamped

Many Madden fans have been complaining lately that the game’s franchise mode has largely gone untouched for quite some time. The minor adjustments year-to-year end with Madden 19, apparently. Franchise mode was a big focus for EA this time around, with a nice mix of both cosmetic and functional improvements to make it feel fresh.


For starters, team and coaching scheme actually mean something now. While players had specific archetypes they could fit into before – such as being a strong-arm quarterback vs. a mobile one – the designation never translated into anything meaningful. In Madden 19, that trend is bucked thanks to an archetype-based progression system.

Instead of using experience on individual player attributes and stats, you now gain skill points that can be used to improve your character’s rating for any given archetype. Each skill point jumps the player up an entire level in their overall rating, and their underlying ratings – such as short throw accuracy or play-action pass for a quarterback – improves as well. You can choose to upgrade a player at any one of his possible archetypes.


You’ll want to focus in on a specific archetype, though, because coaching schemes now play a part in just how successful your players can be. Players who fit into your coach’s scheme will earn even more experience, so it’ll be easier to get them playing to their fullest potential.

You can change your scheme whenever you want, so if you notice you’ve been acquiring a lot of players that can play well into a particular scheme then you can make a change to maximize your team’s effectiveness. Players who fit into your scheme will have a purple puzzle icon on their player card, so it’ll be easy to spot the perfect fits for your team at a glance.


Keeping with improvements to roster management, the addition of new specialist positions is sure to delight. You can now place players into roster spots for positions like 3rd-down running back, slot receiver, or nickel corner. These positions are used in several formations and require players with specific skill sets, typically increased speed or strength.

In previous Madden games, these adjustments required in-game substitutions, but you can now call plays and rest easy knowing the game will automatically substitute the right player in for the play you called. To support all of this deeper player scheme stuff, there are as many as 11 new attributes that’ll help differentiate players on the field even more.

Player development is also getting a facelift. There are now four different levels of progression speeds: normal, quick, star, and superstar. These ratings change more frequently than in the past, but the superstar rating is now reserved for the most elite players at each position. Expect just a few players in the league per position to be able to hold that classification.

Those players also regress in skill more slowly than lesser ones, so getting a superstar at a core position on your team figures to be a solid ongoing goal. There’s a chance to draft a player with any of these development traits from the beginning of their career, but finding a superstar is going to be extremely rare. It’ll reward players who do their homework to find the best player available in the annual draft.

Speaking of that draft, you can always get by just fine with the draft classes generated by the game. That said, Madden 19 now gives you the ability to edit or import custom draft classes when scouting begins in week 3. This is a huge boon for players who want realistic NFL draft classes, or for those who just want to have a little fun editing the player names and attributes.

You can reward your best players with Team Captain patches, a nice way to recognize your team’s most influential talent. It won’t do anything from a gameplay standpoint, but it’s cool that this recognition system is finally represented in Madden.


As you do your daily bidding, you’ll see several new 3D environments based on your current task. If you’re talking to players, you’ll see them getting ready for gameday in the locker room. If you’re going over the game plan, you’ll see your coach typing away at his desk. And if you’ve won a Super Bowl, you’ll also see that trophy sitting somewhere in his office.

The love extends all the way to draft day, with the banquet hall showing each team’s picks up on the big viewing board. Drafted players will be shown in the uniform of the teams which drafted them as their stats are revealed. It should help franchise mode feel a lot more alive than the static 2D menus of old.

Upgraded presentation


Gameday presentation is getting some nice touches this year. EA is continuing the rollout of their highly detailed stadium exteriors. They scan these exteriors with a technology that lets them easily recreate the stadium and surrounding areas in high detail. This year, there are scans of the stadiums for the Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, and Tennessee Titans.

Pre-game, halftime, and post-game broadcast graphics are being given the 3D treatment, too. The halftime show, in particular, is interesting, as it will feature more “around the league” talk to help you keep up with the rest of the league.

For commentary, a new story development feature will allow Brandon Gaudin and Charles Davis to talk about stories about things happening in your game and season. They’ll do things like refer back to a time when your running back had a 1,000-yard season, and when they note that 100 yards should be doable for him in a game they’ll make comments about whether he can reach that goal according to what’s going on in the game. This should make commentary feel less canned, a common complaint from Madden fans over the years.

Madden Ultimate Team changes

Madden’s bread-winning mode, affectionately known as MUT, is getting some changes to make the game mode more accessible for everyone. This card-collecting mode lets you acquire and upgrade players for use in real competitive games. A big part of the mode is upgrading your cards and finding better players either through packs, solo challenges, or the auction house.


This year, player upgrades are getting easier. Instead of moving cards in and out of collections, you upgrade a player by applying “Training,” a new currency type that exists for the sole purpose of upgrading. You can apply those upgrades by looking at the cards themselves, making it a far less painful experience compared to the menu hopping that we used to have.

Another issue MUT fans have dealt with over the years is having to build their teams according to player chemistry, a mechanic that gives you boosts for having players with the same chemistry rating. The problem is that players had to forego using their favorite players in order to get these bonuses. Power is being given back to us in this regard, as one of the features of player upgrades is a chemistry slot that you can use to slot in any applicable chemistry rating you want.


Other MUT changes include weekly solo battles and daily challenges that will give you nice coin, experience, and training bonuses for defeating CPU-controlled teams, the ability to play three-versus-three mode against the CPU, and streamlined player lineups to ensure everyone on your team contributes to your overall chemistry.

Pre-order bonuses

Ready to pre-order Madden 19? You can get the standard edition for $60, but there are no bonuses to be had.

See at Amazon

The $80 Hall of Fame Edition features Terrell Owens on the cover and grants you access to one of five Hall of Fame players for your MUT squad, including Terrell Owens, Brian Urlacher, Rod Woodson, Dan Marino, or Terrell Davis. You’ll also get 12 Gold Team Fantasy Packs, an elite version of the standard Madden 19 cover athlete (not yet announced) and two All-Madden uniforms. There’s also the added benefit of getting the game three days early, on August 7th.

See at Amazon

When can you play it?

Madden 19 launches August 10th for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Buying the Hall of Fame Edition will let you play three days earlier, on August 7th.

PlayStation 4


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Android P features you’ll love: Improved notifications, 2018 edition


Small but significant changes are coming to your notification shade with Android P.

One of the best features of Android is its notification system. It uses the best ideas from companies that originally got it right, like Palm and Nokia, then blends them into a display of information and rich content that we have all come to rely on. Because the notification system is very important for a handheld device that’s supposed to keep you in touch with the world around you, it’s also constantly being improved. Android P will be no exception.

Android notifications improve every year. Here’s what happened with Android Oreo

A new look

Your notifications can (and often do) look very different depending on which company made your phone. That’s also part of Android’s notifications — they are customizable by the developers that built Android itself, as well as app developers that know best what notifications their apps should generate. Phones from manufacturers that tend to follow Google’s lead, like Motorola and Sony, things will be softer, rounder, and more colorful with Android P.

Gone are things like grey lines to act as separators, and instead your status bar — which also has a new look to accommodate display notches — won’t become part of the shade when it’s drawn. Instead, the shade transforms into a card interface with round corners and bright icons for quick settings, and a second card for the actual notification content. The bright colors and round corners will be subject to individual tastes (and debate) but it’s evident that someone at Google spent a lot of time and attention to detail here.

The change looks more drastic than it is, and that’s likely by design, too. Android’s notification shade doesn’t need to be rebuilt or changed too much at once. That’s how you ruin a good thing. Instead, time should be spent to find the perfect interface to show us what we expect to see. Android has matured.

Smarter everywhere


Smart replies using Google’s machine learning algorithms come standard with Android P. Your phone parses the content of a message when it shows a preview in the notification, and as a result, you are given three smart replies you can send with a single tap. These have been supported since Android 8.0 but now Google is building them into the notification system for all app developers to use. You can, of course, choose to ignore the suggestions and type you own reply directly from the notification if you like.

And you may very well be able to use the notification shade without opening your messaging app. Android P brings changes that identify the sender and display the last few lines of the conversation at the top of your phone. The new Person class can fetch user details from your contacts and show avatars, nicknames and other information about who is talking. It even works for group messages.

When you want to reply, there is no need to open the app. Everything you need is available at the bottom of the shade including things like saving as a draft, mark as read, delete, and reply just like the reply field in the app itself. For those of us who tend to send short and sweet messages, it’s like having a second miniature version of the app in your notifications.

Goodbye, Mr. Annoying


With Android P, the “APP_NAME is using battery” message that has bugged so many users is now a thing of the past. You’ll be able to look into the battery usage through the settings should you need to do so, but seeing that YouTube is using the battery because it has not yet been closed by the system isn’t going to haunt you any longer.

More to come

There are more subtle changes that will make their mark as Android P becomes final and applications are built to leverage its features. We can’t forget the notch support which could play a big part in your notification area or things like changes to make Android easier to use and more powerful. Broadcasts, where apps receive messages from the Android system itself, have also been tweaked to support the Notification Channels changes and Do Not Disturb settings.

Overall, Google has built a great base and set of tools to make the notifications from the apps you love on the phone you have a lot better. We can get behind changes that make things better!

Android P

  • Android P: Everything you need to know
  • Android P Beta hands-on: The best and worst features
  • All the big Android announcements from Google I/O 2018
  • Will my phone get Android P?
  • How to manually update your Pixel to Android P
  • Join the Discussion


DirecTV Now Raising All Plan Prices by $5/Month to Stay ‘In Line With the Market’

AT&T’s live TV streaming service DirecTV Now will increase the price of every subscription tier by $5 per month beginning sometime around August 1, 2018. AT&T confirmed the price hike to CordCutters, stating that the move was made to ensure that the cost of DirecTV Now remains “in line with the market.”

The company is referencing the cost of rival services Hulu with Live TV, which started at $40/month, and YouTube TV, which recently raised to $40/month to compete with Hulu. Now, DirecTV Now’s entry-level “Live a Little” plan is raising from $35/month to $40/month, aligning with the competition.

In the 18 months since our launch, we have continued to evolve our DIRECTV NOW products to serve this new customer set and compare favorably with our competitors. To continue delivering the best possible streaming experience for both new and existing customers, we’re bringing the cost of this service in line with the market—which starts at a $40 price point.

Above the basic plan, “Just Right” will increase from $50/month to $55/month, “Go Big” will increase from $60/month to $65/month, and “Gotta Have It” will increase from $70/month to $75/month. While some emails sent out to customers reference an August 1 start date for the new prices, some users have noted earlier dates.

Although unconfirmed, AT&T’s $15 credit for Unlimited cellular plan users should still apply to the new DirecTV Now prices. With the price hike, this means that these users will pay $25/month for the “Live a Little” DirecTV Now plan.

The email messages also remind users of upcoming enhancements to DirecTV Now, including an option to upgrade from 20 hours of the True Cloud DVR Beta to 100 hours, parental controls, more local channels, and more. Coming sooner will be an option to add a simultaneous third stream to a plan and a new Spanish language and sports package.

Sling TV also increased a plan price recently, requiring Sling Orange subscribers to pay $25/month for its entry-level tier, up from $20/month.

Tag: DirecTV Now
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Apple’s Rumored 18W USB-C iPhone Power Adapter Prototype Shown Off in New Photos

Recent rumors and CAD renderings have suggested Apple may be planning to include an 18-watt USB-C charger and a Lightning to USB cable in the box with its iOS devices later this year, allowing for faster charging without requiring users to purchase separate charging accessories at additional cost.

New photos shared by Chongdiantou (via Mac Otakara) show what is claimed to be an engineering prototype of the actual U.S. version of the charger, although their legitimacy cannot be confirmed.

The design of the charger is generally in line with previous renderings, featuring a compact body in the style of Apple’s 5-watt charger that has always been included in the box with iPhones. The design otherwise simply includes a pair of prongs on one side and a USB-C port on the other end. The charger does, however, appear somewhat fatter than depicted in the original leaked rendering.

Text on the charger is somewhat different from Apple’s usual markings, although this may be due to its prototype nature. The text lists the charger with a model number of A1720, in line with Apple’s numbering scheme, and it confirms the charger offers output up to 5V at 3A (15W) or 9V at 2A (18W).

Apple is rumored to be including the more powerful charger with its new iPhones coming later this year, but it would make sense to also include it with upcoming iPad models, which have traditionally included 10–12W adapters.

Related Roundup: 2018 iPhones
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MacRumors Exclusive: Save Up to 40% on Anker’s Portable Batteries, Lightning Cables, and More

A few weeks after our last offer, MacRumors has again partnered with Anker to offer our readers up to 40 percent off eight of Anker’s iPhone and iPad charging products. The savings target two lightning cables, a Qi-compatible wireless charger, a wall charger, a car charger, and three portable battery packs, two of which have high-capacity batteries and dual USB-C/USB-A support for the latest MacBooks.

Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running.

As usual, Anker’s discounts are offered on Amazon, so once you find an accessory that you’re interested in you can add it to your cart, proceed to checkout, enter the relevant promo code into the Gift cards & promotional codes field, and then click “Apply.” Discount prices in this article don’t include taxes or shipping costs, but Amazon Prime subscribers can get the typical free two-day shipping on their orders.

Check out every Anker item on sale in the list below, and be sure to place orders this week as this sale is a bit shorter and will last from today, July 2, through Sunday, July 8. (Note that only one code can be used per order, so if you’d like to order more than one type of item, you’ll need to place separate orders.)

Portable Chargers

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Lightning Cables

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Car, Wireless, and Wall Chargers

  • 24W Dual USB Car Charger + 3ft Lightning Cable – $11.19 with code RUMORS78, down from $15.99
  • PowerPort Wireless Charging Pad With 12W Wall Charger – $13.99 with code RUMORS72, down from $22.99
  • USB Type-C Premium 5-Port 60W USB Wall Charger – $34.99 with code RUMORS76, down from $49.99

You can also head over to our full Deals Roundup for more of the latest discounts and sales happening this week.

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British Ad Industry Regulator Upholds Apple’s iPhone X Claim of ‘Studio-Quality’ Portraits

A British advertising regulatory body has overruled objections to an Apple television ad in which the company claims iPhone X is capable of “studio quality” portraits (via AppleInsider).

The TV ad in question, which began airing in March, showcases the smartphone’s “radically new cameras with Portrait Lighting” and uses the phrasing, “Studio-quality portraits. Without the studio.”

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) was compelled to review two complaints filed by viewers “who believed that the phone could not achieve studio quality photography, and challenged whether the claim ‘Studio-quality portraits’ was misleading and could be substantiated.”

In overruling the objections, the ASA said it had “considered consumers would understand the term ‘studio-quality portraits’ to mean that the lighting effects on the phone allowed the user to imitate a portrait photograph when taken in a studio”.

We acknowledged that the camera on the iPhone X featured a focal lens commonly found in studio photography and understood that the images shown in the ad were photographs taken with the phone. We considered that the lighting effects that could be used when capturing and after having captured an image allowed the user to mimic a photograph similar to those taken in a studio.

We recognized that there were many effects, techniques and tools used in studio photography which played a vital role in capturing high standard images, many of which were not available to someone solely using the iPhone X. However, we recognized the emphasis was placed on the significance of the lighting effects on achieving the quality of image the ad demonstrated, and we understood that those images shown were a true reflection of the capabilities of the iPhone X’s camera. For those reasons, we concluded that the ad was not misleading.

In Apple’s response to the finding, the company pointed out that there was no industry standard definition of “studio-quality portraits” and that there “were wide variances between techniques, equipment, lighting and talent,” which led it to understand the term as a subjective one.

Apple stated that the 50 mm focal lens in the iPhone X was one of the most popular professional studio portrait lenses and the lighting options available on the phone mimicked what could be done in a studio.

Clearcast stated that they met Apple at the time the product was released for a demonstration of the product and found that the images in the ad were a fair reflection of the camera’s capabilities. They stated that “Studio-quality” was not an official, measurable term and that the quality of the photographs, to some extent, depended on the skill of the photographer.

This isn’t the first time the British watchdog has looked at viewer complaints regarding Apple ads. In 2008, Android users took umbrage at an Apple ad that claimed “all parts of the internet are on the iPhone”.

The reasoning behind the complaints was that Java and Flash content aren’t supported on iPhone, therefore the claim was misleading. The complaint was upheld and the ad was banned in the U.K., as was another Apple ad that was adjudged to have exaggerated the speed of the iPhone 3G.

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Tear it up on Mars in ‘Red Rover,’ the driving sim built on NASA data



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Mars Exploration Simulator Red Rover

Mars Exploration Simulator Red Rover

Mars Exploration Simulator Red Rover

Mars Exploration Simulator Red Rover

During the festive holiday season in 2016, Alan Chan spent his week’s vacation time off work exploring Mars. As most of us did last minute Christmas shopping, ate turkey, and reminded ourselves of why discussing politics with dad is a bad idea, Chan was romping, carefree, over Mars’ ruddy surface in a rover-style space buggy. Not a bad time to get away from Earth, as it so happens!

“You look at satellite data and you just don’t have a sense of scale, right?” Chan told Digital Trends. “You think, like, ‘here are some mountains,’ but you don’t get a sense of what it would actually feel like if you were standing there. It’s like going up in an airplane. All the towns you’ve been to and the roads you drive around suddenly look completely different. [Being on the surface] totally changes your perception.”

Flat images could be made 3D and run through the Unreal engine to turn it into an explorable experience.

Before we get any further we should note that, no, you haven’t somehow missed out on the greatest homebrew rocketry story of all time. If you feel like you saw something about a solo Mars explorer on TV at some point in the past, you’re almost certainly remembering Matt Damon’s character from The Martian.

Chan — a video game cinematics creator from California — wasn’t physically on Mars. Instead, he was exploring the Red Planet through a hacked-together home project in which he took satellite and terrain data from the HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and transformed it into a photorealistic virtual recreation of the martian landscape

“This data was available online for scientific purposes,” he continued. “What I did was to take that information and reformat it so I could put it into a game engine.” With some neat triangulation software, flat images could be transformed into three-dimensions and run through the Unreal engine to turn it into an explorable experience. “I don’t think anyone else had done it before,” he said.

Alan Chan

The results are something that, until Elon Musk and others finally get their act together, lets users explore the sights of Mars — from the enormous Victoria Crater to Candor Chasma, one of the largest canyons in the planet’s Valles Marineris canyon system. You can even play it in full immersive virtual reality, courtesy of an Oculus Rift headset.

Less game, more data visualization

Ultimately, Red Rover isn’t really a game. There are no mission objectives, no evil aliens lurking behind rocks to be mowed down, and no way to die. What it is is an impressive demonstration of cutting edge data visualization; the way that creators can take advantage of the amazing space data being produced by organizations like NASA and turn it into something that’s approachable and understandable to the rest of us.

“I would love to visualize flying through the Great Red Spot on Jupiter but I don’t have enough data to do it just yet.”

It’s not wholly accurate, Chan acknowledged. The Martian buggy itself is, by his own admission, ridiculously overpowered. He also took a few liberties with the ambient wind noises, which are there to make it more immersive, but are probably more than you would actually hear in real life. However, the biggest bit of dramatic license involved creating textures to flesh out the extra detail needed for the planet.

Despite being the most high-resolution footage we’ve yet got of Mars, Chan notes that it still only equates to one pixel per half meter. That means that, uploaded with total fidelity, the surfaces look horribly stretched close up.

To counteract this, he replaced them with new texture data of sand, dirt and rocks to make it look better. (“You can actually disable that in the ‘options’ menu so you can see the data as it was actually taken,” he noted. If you’re more scientifically oriented you might want to do that.”)

Mars Exploration Simulator Red Rover Crater Design

Mars Exploration Simulator Red Rover Vehicle Design

Mars Exploration Simulator Red Rover Terrain Material Design

Mars Exploration Simulator Red Rover Terrain Design

Development screenshots. Alan Chan

In the future, Chan would like to extend the project to other planets, whenever the data is available. “I would love to visualize flying through the Great Red Spot on Jupiter but I don’t have enough data to do it just yet,” he said.

Mars remains the main focus, though. With that in mind, the title will continue evolving as more and more HiRISE data is beamed back to Earth.

Alan ChanAlan Chan, developer of Red Rover

In his Steam notes for the “game”, Chan — who is in late forties — notes that he grew up believing that we would have colonized Mars by this point. To date, we have not, which is why Red Rover may be your best chance to explore the planet.

At $4.99 on Steam, compared with the billions spent by space agencies, it’s almost certainly the cheapest.

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