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25
Aug

Apple Store Kyoto: Step inside the new store in Japan’s ancient capital



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It’s taken a while but Apple’s modern tech has finally found a permanent marketplace in Japan’s ancient capital.

Saturday was another brutally hot August day in Japan’s ancient capital of Kyoto. But despite the stifling heat and humidity, several thousand people could still be found lining up along the city’s main shopping street, waiting patiently — if not a little sweatily — for the opening of Apple’s newest store.

The iPhone maker has eight other locations in Japan, but this is its first in Kyoto, a city the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs visited many times and was known to be fond of.

Apple Store openings are renowned for the employees’ excited efforts to whip up the crowds into a frenzy, though the somewhat reserved nature of Japanese folks meant it was always going to be a tall order for this particular store debut.

Still, the blue-shirted workers gave it their all, running a lap of honor around the outside of the store just a few minutes before the official opening. No one seemed too sure why they did it, but a few high fives as they jogged by suggested it was simply a warm-up exercise for the grand opening that was about to come.

Right on cue, at 10 a.m., the doors to the new Apple Store swung open, the staff cheering with such gusto that their faces were in danger of turning the same color as their shirts.

First inside were five young friends (pictured in the slideshow) who first met waiting in line for the Shinjuku Apple Store opening earlier this year. They were fourth in line then. For Kyoto’s Apple Store they arrived at 5 p.m. on Friday, sleeping by the door in a wait lasting 17 hours.

Layout

The new Kyoto Apple Store is located just across from Louis Vuitton on the city’s main shopping street. The first of its two floors features ceiling-to-floor glass panels — familiar to many Apple Stores around the world — and a large video display at the back for Today at Apple sessions on photography, music, coding, and more. These are free and will be held on a daily basis.

Some smaller features worth noting. The design of the handrail (see slideshow) on the staircase to the upper floor is identical to the one found in the Steve Jobs Theater, built as part of the recently opened Apple Park, the company’s new headquarters in Cupertino, California. The staircase even uses the same marble as the one at the theater, all of it sourced from the same location in Italy, an employee told Digital Trends.

The overall architecture for Apple’s new Kyoto store took inspiration from local design and materials, with an upper level featuring a translucent envelope inspired by Japanese lanterns. “The use of lightweight timber frame and special paper on the upper facade also draw reference to the country’s traditional houses,” the company said.

The indefatigable staff continued to high-five visitors beyond mid-day, showing true dedication to the cause, while inside visitors played with the Apple tech laid out on the tables. Some visitors were keen to get their free Apple-branded T-shirt, but by lunchtime supplies had run dry.

Apple opened its first store in 2001 and now has more than 500 outlets in 24 countries.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • iPad battery explosion prompts Apple Store evacuation in Amsterdam
  • Google may finally create its first flagship store in Chicago
  • Amazon takes on the grocery store with Prime Pantry
  • Shop Stories, not stores, with Instagram’s latest update
  • A few seconds cost an Apple store $27,000 worth of stolen merchandise



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25
Aug

Honor Play review


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Research Center:

Honor Play

Honor claims the Honor Play, its new gaming-centric phone is, “Crazy fast, crazy smart,” proving once again the company never undersells its hardware. The tagline implies the Honor Play is not just speedy, and not just clever — it’s crazy, OK? Bluster aside, all we really care about is if Honor’s claims are true. Just how fast and smart is the new phone? Can it elevate to crazy status? We’ve been using it for a week to find out.

It’s worth mentioning that Honor has not shared any plans for U.S. availability of this smartphone just yet — currently it’s available in China and India, and it has just been announced for the U.K. and parts of Europe.

Derivative design

Honor doesn’t say the Honor Play has a crazy design, and rightly so, because although smooth and minimalist, it’s not as heartbreakingly good-looking as the Honor 10. Its major design elements recall the Apple iPhone X. The screen has a notch at the top, and the dual-lens camera is vertically-stacked on the left-hand side of the back panel. This in turn makes it look like a host of other phones, which isn’t good.

honor play front and back

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honor play camera

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

It’s comfortable to hold, lightweight, and most who’ve seen it said it looks more expensive than its actual price tag. Mission accomplished there, we’d say. The 6.3-inch screen is expansive, yet still has noticeable bezels around the sides, a chin, and a further bezel above the notch. The 2,340 x 1,080 pixel resolution is the minimum we want to see on a decent phone today, and Honor has done a great job selecting its panel, because games and video look fantastic. The screen has beautifully-defined colors and decent contrast levels for a shiny, high-quality viewing experience. It’s essential on a phone aimed at gamers.

The Honor Play is the first Honor phone built with GPU Turbo enhancements, giving games a graphics and efficiency boost.

The back of the phone has a matte finish, which Honor says makes the device easier to hold when furiously gaming, but it still still feels slippery. The fingerprint sensor is housed inside a nicely chamfered cutout and it’s very fast, however it looks and feels a little high on the device. It’s also backed up by face unlock, which tends to work even faster than the fingerprint sensor, but it’s not a secure device unlocking feature. At the bottom of the phone is a headphone jack, and a small speaker grill.

If you’re buying the Honor Play in the U.K. you get the choice of blue or black colors. It’s a shame you’ll miss out on the cool ultra-violet, which has a pinkish-purple hue. Buy your Honor Play directly from Honor and you can choose the Player Edition, which has some flashy graphics and color schemes apparently influenced by Audi Sport. The Audi Sport partnership does not extend to actual co-branding, and there are no special wallpapers or anything installed on the phone.

honor play volume and power Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

If you liked the look of the Honor 7X and the Honor View 10, the Honor Play continues that relatively simple theme, avoiding the more upmarket look of the Honor 10. For a gaming phone, it’s perhaps a little too understated, and because it looks like so many other phones, derivative too.

Great performance for gaming

This is what matters. After all, if the Honor Play wheezes its way through the day, it’s not going to encourage anyone to play games on it. The Honor Play is the first Honor phone to be built with GPU Turbo enhancements from the factory, meaning when you play certain games, the graphics, efficiency, frame rate, and other aspects all get a boost. To give it a fair trial, we played Asphalt 9 Legends for a while, which is one of the games that takes advantage of GPU Turbo.

Benchmark results for the Honor Play

AnTuTu 3DBench
205,678

Geekbench 4 CPU
1,872 single-core

6,474 multi-core

3DMark Sling Shot Extreme
 3,206 (Vulkan)

Asphalt 9 on the Honor Play borders on mobile gaming perfection. It’s incredibly fast, silky smooth, and really exciting. There is no lag, pauses, or visual glitches. If you haven’t played an Asphalt game in a while, the Honor Play makes this latest title look like gold. Even with the “performance” graphics setting on, there’s no change. It’s really superb.

Playing Reckless Racing 3, which isn’t on the list of games that are made to work with the GPU Turbo, the experience is the same as we’re used to on other Android phones. There are some instances of slowdown, but nothing serious, and the game is fun to play.

We also didn’t especially notice more grip from the Honor Play’s supposedly more grippy matte rear panel, and the phone gets warm but never hot.

The Honor Play has the Kirin 970 processor and 4GB RAM, which means it has the same processor as the Honor 10, the Huawei P20 Pro, and several others. None of the games played noticeably differently to other Android phones with similar amounts of power, but all will cost more than the Honor Play — a crucial difference.

Go on, Honor, we’ll give you “crazy smart” for the Play’s camera.

This is almost identical to the Honor 10, which costs more than the Honor Play, and perhaps even more surprisingly, it’s close to the Huawei P20 Pro. The AnTuTu score outpaces the Honor View 10 too. It can’t match the Galaxy S9 or the OnePlus 6, which you’d expect. We think the benchmark results illustrate how capable the Honor Play is at playing games.

Crazy smart camera

Anyone familiar with Honor phones will recognize the setup and the user interface, too. The dual-lens camera on the back has a single 16-megapixel, f/2.0 aperture lens with a secondary, f/2.4 aperture depth-sensing 2-megapixel sensor. This is the same megapixel count as the Honor 7X, with improved aperture for better low-light performance. The camera also gets Huawei’s AIS, which uses artificial intelligence to stabilize the image.


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Sample shots from the Honor Play Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Artificial intelligence enhances the camera for scene and object recognition, just like we’ve seen on most Honor and Huawei phones over the past year. The AI is now clever enough to recognize up to 22 objects and 500 different scenarios. It adjusts the settings accordingly, but there is a button in plain view to turn off the AI if you prefer your photos untouched.

It’s also possible to switch between a standard photo and the A.I. image in the Gallery too, which makes comparing the differences easier. The Honor Play surprises with the quality of its photos, and the A.I. plays a big part in making them look good. Go on, Honor, we’ll give you “crazy smart” for the Play’s camera.

If you want a camera that produces pictures suited to sharing online, the Honor Play won’t disappoint.

We took it for a day out in London, on a generally sunny but also overcast day, and the photos we took were immediately shareable — which is exactly what they should be on a phone like the Honor Play. Look closely, and you’ll notice these aren’t perfect shots, but we’re not expecting it to rival the P20 Pro or the Galaxy S9 Plus. It often washed out the sky and had difficulty balancing light in challenging environments.

We did find the screen sometimes showed an image that wasn’t representative of the final photo, with the picture in the gallery surpassing expectations after seeing the preview. Video performance is solid too, and it can shoot up to UHD quality. Our video of the Honor Play was shot on an Honor Play, to give you an idea of how well it does.

To get Honor Play photos ready for sharing, we often edited them to bring out the colors and brighten up the image. We like the Gallery app and its editing suite overall. There are plenty of modes to play with, especially for photos shot with the Aperture mode to product a bokeh effect. There’s also a powerful suite of editing tools, so you don’t have to open a separate app to tune images. Once done, they looked great.

honor play fingerprint sensor Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

If you want a camera that produces pictures suited to sharing online, the phone won’t disappoint.

Software and battery

The Honor Play is instantly recognizable as an Honor phone, both in design and software, It uses Android 8.1 with Huawei’s EMUI version 8.2 installed over the top. The experience is identical to the Honor 10, and close to slightly older Honor phones using earlier versions of EMUI. High points? The camera app is great; it’s very simple to use. To further emphasize its gaming expertise, there’s Game Suite, which promises game acceleration and minimizing notifications while playing, provided you choose that option.

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Other beneficial features include an eye comfort mode that reduces blue light from the screen, a way to hide the notch, an optional app drawer, and a quick way to record the screen. The only problems we encountered were those with notifications, which definitely cannot match Android 9.0 Pie’s new system, and connectivity. The Honor Play would often take a while to find signal, especially when using Google Maps, an app which also crashed during searches. This is not something we have encountered on any other phone.

The 3,750mAh battery on the Honor Play is quite strong, returning about two normal days of use, but only just, and that doesn’t include extensive use in the evening. Hardcore gamers, and anyone pushing the phone hard, will still get a full day.

Price, availability, and warranty.

The Honor Play has been announced for the U.K. and parts of Europe, and is already on sale in China and India. No U.S. launch details have been shared yet. The price and final release date will be announced during the August 30 Honor press event at the IFA technology show, but we can estimate it will cost between 200 euros and 300 euros ($230 to $350) based on international pricing.

Honor Play Compared To

pocophone f1 by xiaomi prod

Pocophone F1 by Xiaomi

vivo nex s prod

Vivo Nex S

moto z3 play prod

Moto Z3 Play

lg g7 thinq press

LG G7 ThinQ

cat s61 prod

Cat S61

moto e5 plus hands on review 9

Moto E5 Plus

oneplus 6 prd

OnePlus 6

samsung galaxy s9 prod

Samsung Galaxy S9

nokia 7 plus prd

Nokia 7 Plus

moto g6 prd

Motorola Moto G6

nuu g3

Nuu G3

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Samsung Galaxy Note 8

lg g flex 2

LG G Flex2

samsung galaxy note 3 review

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

samsung galaxy mega 6 3 review press image

Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3

In the U.K., Honor provides a year’s warranty on the phone and six months on the battery and charger. If no U.S. release date comes and you decide to import the device, warranty duties will come down to the importer.

Our Take

The Honor Play is a terrific gaming phone made even better by a creatively enjoyable camera and a delightful screen.

What are the alternatives?

Until we know the exact price, we can’t nail down the Honor Play’s opposition completely, but we do know it’s going to challenge the Motorola G6 and G6 Plus, the Nokia 6.1, the HTC U11 Life, and the Sony Xperia XA2. Oddly, other competition comes from Honor and Huawei. Everything from the Honor 7X to the Honor 9 Lite are similarly priced, and often have the same software, processor, along with a similar camera.

Dedicated gaming phones such as the Razer Phone cost considerably more, as do high performance Android phones, with the OnePlus 6 the only one coming close in terms of price. The Pocophone F1, if you live when it can be purchased, is a strong challenger, as is Xiaomi’s Mi A2 with Android One installed. We’ll have a better idea of its competition when the price is finalized.

How long will it last?

If you treat it normally, then we’d expect the Honor Play to last for two to three years before you feel the need to upgrade, that is provided you aren’t buying it solely for gaming. Mobile games are getting ever-more complex and graphically-intensive, and if you’re really into this aspect, the phone may not be quite so willing to run the latest and greatest titles in a year’s time. If you don’t have to turn all the settings up to maximum, you should be fine.

It’s not water-resistant, and the body isn’t rugged, so drops (especially into water) are likely to do serious damage. There isn’t a screen protector fitted out of the box either, because Honor wants to sell you a special gaming protector, which supposedly uses a nano-coating to offer less resistance when sliding a finger across the screen.

Should you buy one?

Yes, you’d be crazy not to if you’re into mobile games, provided the price comes in on the right side of $250 or so.

25
Aug

The Honor Play is the phone for gamers that don’t have deep pockets


If you’ve looked enviously at gaming-specific smartphones like the Razer Phone and the Asus ROG Phone, but are put off by the high prices, the Honor Play may be the alternative you’ve been waiting for. This is the first phone from Honor with the GPU Turbo enhancements built-in at the factory, rather than being added on as an update, creating a reasonably priced gaming smartphone.

What’s GPU Turbo? It’s a software enhancement that works together with the phone’s hardware to provide an improved gaming experience. Honor says graphics processing efficiency is improved by 60 percent, battery consumption is reduced by 30 percent, and you can also expect better response times, lower jitter rates, and more stable frame rates. If you’re a PUBG Mobile player, Honor has data that shows a frame rate of 39fps with GPU Turbo, or 36 without, for example.

The Honor Play has Huawei’s Kirin 970 processor and 4GB of RAM inside, with a 6.3-inch LCD touchscreen, which is not as high spec as the competing high-end gaming phones. That’s because it won’t cost anywhere near as much. Honor is keeping the final price quiet until the launch event at the IFA tech show, but we can make an educated guess, due to the phone already being available in China and India. Based on those prices, and those of the Honor 10, we imagine the Honor Play will cost between 200 and 300 euros, which is between $230 and $350.

What else do you get for that? There is more for gamers. A feature called 4D Smart Shocks works like a PlayStation DualShock controller, with phone vibrations matching the onscreen action, plus 3D audio using the Histen feature. A Game Suite is part of the software package which mutes incoming calls and notifications, and locks navigation keys while playing, plus a recording feature to save your best performances. Honor will even sell you a special gaming screen protector with a smooth surface for fast touchscreen gaming.

It’s not gaming utopia though, because the GPU Turbo, 3D audio, and 4D Smart Shocks won’t enhance every game in the same way. If you’re a PUBG Mobile player, an Asphalt 9 fan, or a Mobile Legends addict, you’re fine; but outside of these and a few others, the GPU Turbo may not have such a dramatic effect. This isn’t unique to the Honor Play, as most games need to be specially designed or upgraded to take advantage of special phone features.

The camera will be familiar to Honor fans. The main lens has 16 megapixels and is joined by a second 2-megapixel camera. It uses artificial intelligence for scene recognition — it recognizes 22 different objects, and 500 different scenarios — and has an f/2.2 aperture. The selfie camera has 16 megapixels and an f/2.0 aperture that also uses A.I. to make you more beautiful. Other features include a 3,750mAh battery, Android 8.1 with the EMUI 8.2 user interface from Huawei, a MicroSD card slot, a headphone jack, a fingerprint sensor, and face unlock.

Like the sound of the Honor Play? You’ve got a choice of versions, all with 64GB of internal memory. In the U.K. a blue and black version of the Play will be sold, but the pinky-purple colored Play, called ultra-violet, will be restricted to other markets. Visit the HiHonor.com online store and you’ll be able to buy a special Player Edition of the Honor Play, which features a different graphic design on the back of the device, and color schemes inspired by Honor’s partnership with Audi Sport.

Like the price, the release date and final availability of the Honor Play will be revealed at the IFA show on August 30. Interestingly, Honor told us this is likely to be the first in a range of Play phones, so we should look out for more gaming devices under the name in the future.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Honor Play review
  • Huawei’s got a free way of turning your phone into a monster gaming machine
  • Huawei might be making a powerful phone for mobile gamers
  • Asus ROG Phone: Everything you need to know
  • Honor Note 10: Everything you need to know



25
Aug

Google Fit hands-on: Bare-bones, but effective


Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends

You could have earned a Bachelor’s degree in the time it took Google to deliver a significant update to its Fit app. Well, it’s finally here, and the update doesn’t just bring a slick redesign, but it makes fitness tracking far less overwhelming.

We’ve been testing the new Google Fit out. Here are our recommendations on how to get the most out of the app, and our general impressions.

Simple, clean interface

The new Google Fit app has received the all-white Material treatment like many other Google services. Gone are the bright colors and cartoon graphics — instead, there’s a clean, white background with blue and green accents to highlight items of importance; it’s all business, and no fun. The most important section of the app is the two grouped rings on the homepage; Google’s taking a page out of Apple Health with these activity rings — the blue, inner ring tracks Move Minutes, and the green, outer ring measures Heart Points (we’ll get to them soon).

You still have quick access to step count, calories burned, and distance walked right below. Further down, there’s a chart that shows step count data over the last seven days. It defaults to a goal of 10,000 steps a day, but you can edit it to include more or less. Scroll towards the bottom and you’ll see heart rate data — though a Wear OS smartwatch is needed, or you will need to port your heart rate from a device that is capable of syncing with Google Fit. Below, you can also track your weight, but it needs to be manually inputted by tapping the floating “+” icon. Tap on Weight  yo see how your weight data fluctuates over the course of a year, if you’re proactive about logging it.

One noticeable omission over the previous version of Google Fit is the widget.

There are two other tabs accessible on the bottom. The Journal tab shows a history of your past activity, whether it’s a morning walk or an evening run. The Profile tab is where you can edit your personal information like gender, weight, birthday and height. It also allows you to increase or decrease your activity goals. On any tab, the “+” sign in the bottom right-hand corner lets you input activity data as well as weight, activity, and blood pressure. It’s here that you can also trigger tracking a workout, and there’s quite a number of exercises to choose from.

Unlike the Samsung Health app, there’s no option to measure heart rate simply by placing a finger on the rear sensor of the phone. You’ll have to wear a Wear OS smartwatch with a heart rate sensor or a device that can sync with Google Fit to track it on the app.

One noticeable omission over the previous version of Google Fit is the widget. There’s no option to add a widget on your home screen anymore to quickly see activity rings in the new Google Fit, which is disappointing. We’ve asked Google if a widget for the new version is in the works, and have yet to hear back. There are two shortcuts you can add to your home screen, however. Long press the Fit app icon and press and hold Track workout or Add weight to create shortcuts for these on the home screen.

Breaking down Move minutes and Heart points

Rather than only tracking activity based on steps, Google has used data from the American Heart Association and the World Health Organization to separate activity tracking into two categories: Move Minutes and Heart Points. Tap the information icon in the upper right-hand corner of the app to see an explanation of how it works, and we’re breaking it down a little further here.

Fit counts each minute with 30 or more steps as a Move Minute, and one Heart Point is earned for every minute of a moderately-intense activity — like speed walking — or more than 100 steps per minute.

Score at least 150 Heart Points per week and you’ll meet the American Heart Association recommendation of 150 active minutes per week to improve cardiovascular health, which in turn will lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. Divide 150 by seven, and the daily Heart Points goal comes out to be 35 rather than the lower default.

You may be hitting your daily step goal, but that doesn’t mean you’re performing enough physical activity.

Google Fit doesn’t provide recommendations for Move Minutes, but this is likely because Heart Points are the more important metric to focus on. You may be hitting your daily step goal, but that doesn’t mean you’re performing enough physical activity that gets hearts pumping. Heart Points are a good way to gauge how active you really are in a given day, and the app is designed in such a way that we feel as though we have to hit the goal by the end of the day. Extra points are also awarded when you participate in a high-intensity activity, which definitely motivated us to run for longer periods of time.

Move Minutes are there to track day-to-day movement that’s not as intense. Even when we walked a far distance, Google Fit didn’t capture any Heart Points because we didn’t move quickly enough, but it did track Move Minutes. We recommend setting a high goal — around 330 Move Minutes — instead of the low default, to correlate your 10,000 step goal.

All this being said, we do wish that Google Fit also included the ability to track calorie or distance goals.

You’ll also receive notifications to keep going if the app finds you’ve been inactive for some time. The alert will let you know how many more Heart Points you have to go to reach your weekly goal, and you can then tap on the notification to see a more in-depth view of your activity. You’ll also receive an alert letting you know you’ve reach your goal for the day. We’d argue these notifications could be a little more encouraging or fun, as they’re currently a bit bland, and we also felt as though the app didn’t serve us enough notifications. We don’t want to be inundated, but we’d like a few more reminders to keep us moving. Perhaps a setting to tweak the amount of notifications we want is in order.

Working out using Google Fit

When you’re ready to workout with Google Fit, tap on the plus sign to begin tracking and then choose the activity you’re doing. The app offers a wide range of activities — from running to hiking and also more specific ones like gardening or meditation. We went for a run with the app, and were able to track time, miles, distance, and calories. It also showed how many Heart Points we were earning in real time. Once done, the workout is added in the Journal section.

When you’re not manually tracking your workout, the app can automatically detect whether you’re running, walking, and biking, using the sensors in your phone, which we found to be mostly accurate. There is a chance it might accidentally register car or train rides as a workout, but you can thankfully edit or delete these logs.

Working out with Google Fit and tracking activity on a daily basis is easy, fluid, and simple, and it’s a much improved experience over the old app. The new layout does away with confusing navigation and unnecessary information, making it less overwhelming and enjoyable to use. It could do with a few more goal-tracking options, as well as an option to receive more notifications. We have yet to use it with a Wear OS smartwatch, but we’ll update this article when we do.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Redesigned Google Fit uses Heart Points and Move Minutes to keep you active
  • Motiv smart ring tracks ‘active minutes,’ because step counters are so 2015
  • The best fitness trackers of 2018
  • Fitbit Charge 3: Everything you need to know
  • Polar M430 review



25
Aug

Nvidia’s RTX 2000 GPUs look like A.I. hardware dressed up for gamers


Nvidia’s unveiling of its next-generation 2000-series graphics cards at Gamescom should have been a momentous occasion for gamers. More than two years on from the release of its fantastic Pascal line up of hardware, we finally got a look at Nvidia’s true, next-gen power. Or did we?

We can safely assume that the GeForce RTX 2000-series graphics cards will be better than their predecessors at powering games. But for all of the talk of ray tracing and tensor cores, there’s been precious little discussion of how these cards will actually perform in games people play today. What little data we’ve been given on that front seems deliberately muddied and cherry-picked.

So, are these gaming cards with AI benefits or AI cards that can game?

The new Nvidia showing its face

Nvidia was once a dedicated gaming hardware company, but these days, it puts a lot of energy and investment into other fields. In 2018, Nvidia’s GPUs are used in autonomous vehicles, AI and deep learning processing, and powering supercomputers and data centers. It seemed to be a happy accident that Nvidia’s gaming technology had real-life applications in burgeoning fields of interest.

Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia

No one could blame Nvidia for wanting to capitalize on these newfound revenue streams. There is obviously crossover in what makes a good AI GPU and what makes a good gaming GPU, and that’s what we’re seeing in this new graphics card architecture, dubbed Turing. It’s a robust platform for a company looking to spread into new verticals as efficiently as possible.

But here’s the problem: The fraction of Nvidia’s business that is focused on gaming is shrinking by the day, and due to its near-monopoly control of the market, rarely is forced to make aggressive moves in the space. Just consider its lackluster response to the 2017-2018 graphics card pricing crisis as an example of how the company can comfortably sit on its hands and let the profits roll in.

Why deep learning and ray tracing?

Rather than deliver practical, performance-driven updates in its new cards, Nvidia has found two gaming applications of its new newfound interest in AI. The vast majority of Nvidia’s Gamescom talk was spent discussing these new technologies, and yet their actual application to gaming is fairly limited right now.

What about performance in games people actually own?

The first is what it calls “deep learning super sampling” (DLSS), which is powered by the presence of Nvidia’s tensor cores. These are processors designed specifically to run AI. The application in gaming is effectively an AI-driven anti-aliasing solution.

As nice as all that sounds, these tensor cores weren’t designed specifically to perform that task. In fact, they were introduced in early 2017 in the Titan V graphics card. Although powerful at certain gaming tasks, that card was marketed almost exclusively for deep learning and AI development., the tensor cores playing a major role in that capability.

And then there’s the new ray tracing capabilities. Powered by another new piece of technology, the RT cores, they’re benefit to gaming is a bit more clear. Ray tracing allows for the creation of dynamic lighting, reflection, and shadow effects in environments — and Nvidia spent plenty of time showing off the difference it made in games. But still, ray tracing is not a functionality that’s exclusive to making games look prettier. Nvidia’s new RTX Quadro enterprise cards, which were announced a week before, benefit from the RT cores as well. It’s a technology that’s being sold to visual effects animators too.

EA’s Battlefield V is one of the few upcoming games expected to take advantage of Nvidia’s new ray tracing technology.

The multi-purpose functionality of these two innovations doesn’t make them negligible, but it certainly marks a sea change in the way Nvidia will develop its hardware in the future. They won’t offer much to the vast majority of gamers, due to the lack of support. There are precious few games that currently support ray tracing, and the same goes for DLSS.  If these new features were add-ons to some significant performance gains as well, that’d be understandable. But we’ve dug into the numbers, and well, they don’t look all that promising.

Don’t trust the numbers

Rather than talk about these new cards in terms gamers care about, Nvidia’s CEO Jensen Huang claimed Nvidia had to invent new methods and terminology to measure the performance. We learned all about “Giga rays per second” and “RTX-OPS.” We were told that an RTX 2070 was more powerful than a Titan XP and that a 2080 Ti was six times more powerful than anything Pascal had to offer when it came to ray tracing in supporting games. But again, what about performance in games people actually own?

The additions of DLSS and ray tracing appears to have a negative impact on the power requirements of Nvidia’s new cards too.

To counter claims that these surprisingly expensive new graphics cards weren’t big performers, Nvidia followed up a few days later with some much more generalized benchmarks. However, they only made hardware enthusiasts like us more suspicious. The games which show the biggest advantage of the RTX 2080 are those using that new DLSS, AI-driven anti-aliasing technology.

Since the 1080 wasn’t designed to run DLSS, it is no surprise that it’s poor at doing so, making that relative comparison far from conclusive.

Of all of the games listed, only three show a relative performance increase of 1.5 times between generations. Most are much closer to 1.3 and the graph gives us no indication of what settings were enabled. Nothing in that graph equates to framerates either. It’s a pure relative comparison, which without a lot of qualifying information, tells us very little.

And when we did get frame rates, most are not for the same games as in the original graph, meaning we can’t cross-reference. Neither do we know what settings these games were run at beyond the 4K resolution.

Gaming at 4K at above 60 FPS is a great achievement, but these numbers aren’t vast increases over what was possible with last-generation cards. Indeed they seem relatively comparable to a 1080 Ti. Guru3D managed similar numbers in its Resident Evil 7 testing, and we weren’t far off such framerates in our Final Fantasy XV testing with that last-gen card.

But wait! It gets worse.

It’s the deliberate lack of clarity in Nvidia’s benchmarking numbers which feels so insulting to gamers.

The additions of DLSS and ray tracing appears to have also had a negative impact on the power requirements of the new cards too. Clock speeds have actually decreased this generation, but despite that dip and the use of more efficient GDDR6 memory, power requirements have gone up, which in turn has warranted an entirely new dual-fan cooling solution.

CUDA cores have gone up across the board, which should equate to an increase in performance. The number leap is relatively comparable to the jump between the 900 and 1000 series, although as a percentage, that’s less impressive this time around. While the 2080 and perhaps 2070 could potentially end up close to 1080 Ti speeds, when the 10-series cards’ prices are crashing to far less than their next-gen counterparts, it makes the 2000-series far less attractive.

And yet even if these cards are only a little more powerful than the Pascal generation, they’ll still be the most powerful graphics cards available. With limited competition at the top end from AMD, Nvidia can effectively set its own prices and arbitrarily decide how a top-end card should perform. It could even hamstring the gaming performance of its new-generation GPUs to make them equally attractive to AI developers with little fear of a drop in market share.

Do these cards really put gamers first?

It seems likely that the actual, real world, general gaming performance of the new 2000-series cards won’t be quite so monumental as we hope, nor nearly as good as Nvidia suggested. Yes, they’ll be able to do ray tracing — though it may require a big performance hit. And the new DLSS technique is pretty, but both technologies will only have any effect in games that actually support it. In everything else, this looks much more like a standard generational leap in gaming power, if not a bit less than that.

But it’s the deliberate lack of clarity in Nvidia’s benchmarking numbers which feels so insulting to gamers who have struggled through well over a year of bad GPU pricing in the hopes of a new-generation offering a meaningful upgrade. Instead, Nvidia has obfuscated how powerful the cards are in general gaming and pushed the introduction of new ‘features’ which seem equally, if not more, applicable to other industry’s interests entirely.

Though the 2000-series is an impressive line up of graphical hardware, it doesn’t seem like technology built with gamers in mind. It smells of enterprise kit with some gamer racing stripes stuck on the side.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Nvidia’s Turing chip reinvents computer graphics (but not for gaming)
  • Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 20 Series starts at $500 and features real-time ray tracing
  • Nvidia’s new GPUs look amazing, but that doesn’t mean you should buy one
  • ‘Tomb Raider’ devs respond to RTX 2080 Ti, ray tracing performance concerns
  • Everything you need to know about the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2000 series



25
Aug

31 plastic bottles and some algae is practically all this backpack is made from


Like any person with a functioning conscience, we care about saving the environment. If we can help save the environment while also looking totally stylish, then that’s a nice bonus. Thanks to a new Kickstarter campaign from sustainable designers Tentree, we can now comfortably do both.

Tentree has launched the Mobius, a multifunctional backpack with a sustainable twist: Not only is it made almost entirely out of “upcycled” materials, but the company will also plant 10 trees for every unit that’s sold. To date, the company has planted more than 20 million trees, and aims to increase that total to an astonishing 1 billion trees by 2030.

The fabric of each Mobius Backpack is made out of 31 plastic bottles, while the webbing, clips, and buckles also come from plastic waste. Perhaps the biggest departure from the kind of materials you might ordinarily find in a bag is the use of a special foam padding, which comes from sustainably sourced algae biomass taken from lakes and ponds.

“The plastic bottles are collected and sorted, washed and chopped into flakes, cleaned, blended, and melted into chips,” designer Joey Pringle told Digital Trends. “The chips get transformed into fibers. This backpack is giving recycled bottles a new life instead of littering the landfills.”

Pringle said the team’s goal initially was to somehow make a high-quality, durable backpack using resources that were already around and could be cleverly reused. “We saw a blank canvas and opportunity since there wasn’t anything in the marketplace [like this],” he said. “That gave us … the platform to come up with the world’s most eco-progressive backpack.”

It certainly seems like customers are responding well to it. The project broke its $27,000 Kickstarter campaign goal within an hour of launching, and at time of writing has racked up $131,605. As we do for all crowdfunded projects and products, we offer our usual warnings about the risks inherent in crowdfunding campaigns. However, if you’d like to go ahead and get involved, you can head over to the project’s Kickstarter page to pledge your cash. The Mobius Backpack starts at $76. Shipping is set to take place in March 2019.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: inflatable backpacks and robotic submarines
  • Cotton and corn! Reebok’s newest sneaker is ‘made from things that grow’
  • Zap! A new portable sterilizer called Klistem uses UV light to kill bacteria
  • HandyShower is the portable bathroom for your next camping trip
  • This solar panel rolls up like a scroll when it isn’t charging your gadgets



25
Aug

Shield your new Galaxy Note 9 with the best!


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Life’s view is better when you take it to the edge.

For most of us, our phone is an extension of ourselves, and losing or damaging it can almost feel like breaking a finger.

But fear not, the protection your new Note 9 deserves is here. With your Galaxy Note 9 either already in your hands or on its way to you, it’s up to you to make sure it stays looking fresh. Whitestone provides the first true “Full-screen adhesive” tempered glass screen protector for curved bezel-less phones and they are the premier specialized brand for the high-end market of cellular devices. Thankfully, they have just released one of the most important accessories to keep your device looking just like it did when it first came out of the box.

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For a long time, plastic or urethane protector have been the main option as screen protectors, but the truth is they don’t really give your phone true protection. They are vulnerable to scratches and even can reduce transparency, not to mention the greasy smudges or air bubbles that can happen when just putting them on. Then tempered glass protectors came about and allowed your screen to stay crystal clear.

But most other well-known brands try to be sneaky by falsely advertising themselves as full-cover tempered glass screen protector. Most only cover the flat side of your device and use a black cover adhesive along the side to hide lifts, or they have a poorly implemented visible Dot-Matrix which makes the device prone to touchscreen errors and can give off a rainbow/blurry effect. But that’s not the case with Dome Glass. The Whitestone Dome Glass uses several patented technologies to fill in those shortcomings and provide the Note 9 with the ultimate security like no other screen protector you’ve ever seen before.

Use Coupon code AC4NOTE9 for 30% off Note 9 Dome Glass
Use Coupon code AC4NOTE9 for 30% off Note 9 Dome Case

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It is precisely because of Whitestone’s patented technologies that put them in a tier of their own. One such technique used is their patented LOCA technology which stands for ‘Liquid Optical Clear Adhesive’. LOCA is a revolutionary liquid glass adhesive that evenly disperses over the entire curved screen, forming a single, solid layer of anti-shatter glass. This is the only pure complete screen coverage out there for the Note 9, and as a bonus, the liquid can repair existing scratches and scuffs as well.

By filling in any cracks and then firmly setting, the Dome Glass creates a watertight, edge to edge protection. This can provide a new lease on life for your Note 9 if you are unfortunate enough to damage it before getting any protection in place. Now, there is no need to go out and spend the money on a whole new replacement screen due to a scratch or two, let the Whitestone Dome Glass come to the rescue.

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With their LOCA technology, Whitestone also utilizes a unique curing process that harnesses the power of UV light to securely attach the glass to your phone giving you flawless protection. This is not a quick process by any means, but it is by far the best way to get the ultimate protection. Make sure you give yourself ample time to follow the step by step guide included (It’s also recommended to watch their installation video) and don’t just try to slap it on in a few minutes.

To prevent installation errors from happening, each Dome Glass two-pack includes three adhesive bottles, a UV curing light, an install frame, and all the other necessary components. Also, it is possible to use the extra glass to re-install if you do happen to make a mistake. The only thing not included in the package is the power adaptor for the UV light. But since it is micro USB compatible, you can use any USB wall adapter to power it. For help with the installation, you can follow this link to see some of the Whitestone Dome Glass reviews and installation tutorial videos.

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Available in a single or as part of a two-pack (perfect for those on a family plan), the Whitestone Dome Glass is already a top seller on Amazon Worldwide and AT&T, and it is touted as one of the best-tempered glass protectors by NTT Docomo (the largest cellular provider in Japan). Moreover, every Whitestone Dome Glass product comes with a Limited Lifetime Warranty which means that if your Dome Glass is damaged or worn, you could request a replacement through Whitestone’s webpage.

These are only a few of the reasons why as a brand Whitestone is the only tempered glass screen protector recognized by SMAPP (Samsung Mobile Accessory Partnership Program). Samsung as a brand recognizes the quality of protection that the Dome Glass provides, you should too. Also, for a limited time, our very own Android Central readers can use the code AC4NOTE9 to save 30% off the Whitestone Dome Glass for the Note 9.

At $999.99 the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is no small investment, it’s the top of the line. If you’re not going to settle for a second-rate phone, why would you settle for a second-rate screen protector? Well, the short answer: You shouldn’t! Get your own Dome Glass today!

Use Coupon code AC4NOTE9 for 30% off Note 9 Dome Glass
Use Coupon code AC4NOTE9 for 30% off Note 9 Dome Case

25
Aug

Exclusive: Epic’s first Fortnite installer had a wide open door for hackers


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The exact problem we expected to happen, happened.

Google has just publicly disclosed that it discovered an extremely serious vulnerability in Epic’s first Fortnite installer for Android that allowed any app on your phone to download and install anything in the background, including apps with full permissions granted, without the user’s knowledge. Google’s security team first disclosed the vulnerability privately to Epic Games on August 15, and has since released the information publicly following confirmation from Epic that the vulnerability was patched.

In short, this was exactly the kind of exploit that Android Central, and others, had feared would occur with this sort of installation system. Here’s what you need to know about the vulnerability, and how to make sure you’re safe going forward.

What is the vulnerability and why is it so bad?

When you go to download “Fortnite” you don’t actually download the whole game, you download the Fortnite Installer first. The Fortnite Installer is a simple app that you download and install, which then subsequently downloads the full Fortnite game directly from Epic.

The Fortnite Installer was easily exploitable to hijack the request to download the full game.

The problem, as Google’s security team discovered, was that the Fortnite Installer was very easily exploitable to hijack the request to download Fortnite from Epic and instead download anything when you tap the button to download the game. It’s what’s known as a “man-in-the-disk” attack: an app on your phone looks for requests to download something from the internet and intercepts that request to download something else instead, unbeknownst to the original downloading app. This is possible purely because the Fortnite Installer was designed improperly — the Fortnite Installer has no idea that it just facilitated the malware download, and tapping “launch” even launches the malware.

In order to be exploited, you would need to have an app installed on your phone that was looking for such a vulnerability — but given the popularity of Fortnite and the anticipation of the release, it’s highly likely that there are unsavory apps out there that are doing just that. Many times malicious apps that are installed on phones don’t have a single exploit on them, they have a whole payload full of many known vulnerabilities to test, and this type of attack could be one of them.

With one tap, you could download a malicious app that had full permissions and access to all data on your phone.

Here’s where things get really bad. Because of the way Android’s permissions model works, you won’t have to accept installation of an app from “unknown sources” beyond the time you accepted that installation for Fortnite. Because of the way this exploit works, there is no indication during the installation process that you’re downloading anything other than Fortnite (and Fortnite Installer has no knowledge, either), while in the background an entirely different app is being installed. This all happens within the expected flow of installing the app from the Fortnite Installer — you accept the installation, because you think you’re installing the game. On Samsung phones that get the app from Galaxy Apps, in particular, things are slightly worse: there isn’t even a first prompt to allow from “unknown sources” because Galaxy Apps is a known source. Going further, that app that was just installed silently can declare and be granted every permission possible without your further consent. It doesn’t matter whether you have a phone with Android Lollipop or Android Pie, or whether you turned off “unknown sources” after installing the Fortnite Installer — as soon as you installed it, you could potentially be attacked.

Google’s Issue Tracker page for the exploit has a quick screen recording that shows just how easily a user can download and install the Fortnite Installer, in this case from the Galaxy Apps Store, and think they’re downloading Fortnite while instead downloading and installing a malicious app, with full permissions — camera, location, microphone, SMS, storage and phone — called “Fortnite.” It takes a few seconds and no user interaction.

Yeah, this is a pretty bad one.

How you can make sure you’re safe

Thankfully, Epic acted quickly to fix the exploit. According to Epic, the exploit was fixed less than 48 hours after being notified and was deployed to every Fortnite Installer that had been installed previously — users simply need to update the Installer, which is a one-tap affair. The Fortnite Installer that brought the fix is version 2.1.0, which you can check for by launching the Fortnite Installer and going to its settings. If you for whatever reason were to download an earlier version of Fortnite Installer, it will prompt you to install 2.1.0 (or later) before installing Fortnite.

If you have version 2.1.0 or later, you’re safe from this particular vulnerability.

Epic Games has not released information on this vulnerability outside of confirming that it has been fixed in version 2.1.0 of the installer, so we don’t know whether it was actively exploited in the wild. If your Fortnite Installer is up to date, but you’re still worried about whether you were affected by this vulnerability, you can uninstall Fortnite and the Fortnite Installer, then go through the installation process again to make sure that your Fortnite installation is legitimate. You can (and should) also run a scan with Google Play Protect to hopefully identify any malware if it was installed.

A Google spokesperson had the following comment on the situation:

User security is our top priority, and as part of our proactive monitoring for malware we identified a vulnerability in the Fortnite installer. We immediately notified Epic Games and they fixed the issue.

Epic Games provided the following comment from CEO Tim Sweeney:

Epic genuinely appreciated Google’s effort to perform an in-depth security audit of Fortnite immediately following our release on Android, and share the results with Epic so we could speedily issue an update to fix the flaw they discovered.

However, it was irresponsible of Google to publicly disclose the technical details of the flaw so quickly, while many installations had not yet been updated and were still vulnerable.

An Epic security engineer, at my urging, requested Google delay public disclosure for the typical 90 days to allow time for the update to be more widely installed. Google refused. You can read it all at https://issuetracker.google.com/issues/112630336

Google’s security analysis efforts are appreciated and benefit the Android platform, however a company as powerful as Google should practice more responsible disclosure timing than this, and not endanger users in the course of its counter-PR efforts against Epic’s distribution of Fortnite outside of Google Play.

What we learned from this process

I’ll repeat something that’s been said on Android Central for years now: it’s incredibly important to only install apps from companies and developers you trust. This exploit, for as bad as it is, still required that you have both the Fortnite Installer installed and another malicious app that would make the request to download more damaging malware. With the massive popularity of Fortnite there’s a great possibility that those circles overlap, but it doesn’t have to happen to you.

This is exactly the kind of vulnerability we were worried about, and it happened on Day 1.

One of our concerns from the start with the decision to install Fortnite outside of the Play Store was that the game’s popularity would overpower people’s general good sense to stick to the Play Store for their apps. This is the kind of vulnerability that would very likely be caught in the review process of going onto the Play Store, and would be fixed before any large number of people downloaded it. And with Google Play Protect on your phone, Google would be able to remotely kill and uninstall the app if it ever made it out into the wild.

For its part, Google still managed to catch this vulnerability even though the app isn’t being distributed through the Play Store. We already know Google Play Protect is able to scan apps on your phone even if they were installed directly from the web or another app store, and in this case that process was backed up by a talented security team at Google that found the vulnerability and reported it to the developer. This process typically happens in the background without much fanfare, but when we’re talking about an app like Fortnite with likely tens of millions of installations, it shows just how seriously Google takes security in Android.

Update: This article has been updated with clarified information on the exploit, as well as a comment from Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney.

25
Aug

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 vs. OnePlus 6: MrMobile’s $500 dilemma


Here’s something I heard a lot from viewers when I said that Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 was actually worth the thousand bucks it costs: “no, dude.” See, it turns out a lot of folks don’t think any smartphone is worth a four-figure price point, no matter how fully-featured it is. It’s not just viewer feedback, either; I listen to a lot of tech podcasts, and nearly every time the Galaxy Note 9 was brought up in conversation this week, another smartphone was hot on the tongue of the next host: the OnePlus 6.

You might remember the OnePlus 6 as the smartphone I lightly chastened in my review for being the most expensive of its formerly-very-affordable line. But here’s the thing: it’s also one of the best Android phones of 2018 – and at a mere $530, it’s almost 50% less expensive than Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9. That’s not just a price gap; it’s a price canyon. Given how much I enjoy using both of these smartphones, I wanted to know just how the two fared when put head-to-head.

So join me for the Galaxy Note 9 vs. the OnePlus 6! We’ll recap some of what you already know; we’ll gaze upon some camera comparisons that might surprise you; and we’ll barely touch on the Poco F1 that launched to much hoopla right in the middle of this video’s production process (more on that soon). If you’re more of a casual tech lover, or a lapsed phone geek who’s checking back in on Android after a hiatus … you might be surprised at just how much (or how little) difference an extra $500 makes when you’re shopping for the best smartphone of 2018!

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25
Aug

Apple Online Store Security Flaw Exposed PINs of T-Mobile Customers


A security flaw in Apple’s online store exposed the account PINs of more than 72 million T-Mobile customers, reports BuzzFeed News.

The vulnerability was discovered by security researchers Phobia and Nicholas “Convict” Ceraolo, who also found a similar flaw in the website for phone insurance company Asurion that exposed AT&T account PINs.

Both Apple and Asurion fixed the website flaws that left the PINs vulnerable after learning about them from BuzzFeed News. Apple opted not to provide further comment on the situation, but told BuzzFeed News that it is “very grateful to the researchers who found the flaw.”

The page on Apple’s site that let hackers brute force PINs, via BuzzFeed News
PINs, or passcodes, are numbers that are used as an additional account security measure by many carriers in the United States. Mobile device PINs are typically a last line of defense for a cellular account as both carrier websites and support staff will ask for the PIN for confirmation before making account changes.

SIM hacking, which uses social engineering to get carrier support staff to transfer a person’s phone number to a new SIM, has become increasingly prevalent due to the number of accounts (bank, email, social media, etc.) that are tied to a person’s phone number. A PIN is used as a defense mechanism against SIM hacking, which means exposed PINs can be particularly dangerous.

Accessing the T-Mobile PINs on Apple’s website involved a brute force attack where a hacker used software to input multiple different numeric combinations to guess the proper one.

As BuzzFeed News explains, after initiating a T-Mobile iPhone purchase on the Apple online store and selecting monthly payment options through T-Mobile, Apple’s site directs users to an authentication form asking for a T-Mobile number and account PIN or last four digits of a social security number (which most carriers use in place of a PIN when one has not been set).

The page allowed for infinite entry attempts into the PIN field, enabling the brute force attack that let hackers guess PINs associated with a T-Mobile phone number.

The security vulnerability appears to have been limited to T-Mobile accounts, as the same validation page for other carriers on Apple’s site uses a rate limit that locks access to the form for 60 minutes after five to 10 incorrect entries. Given that the other carrier pages had rate limiting enabled, it’s likely Apple made an error on the T-Mobile page.

According to Ceraolo, the vulnerability is likely due to an engineering mistake made when connecting T-Mobile’s account validation API to Apple’s website.

A similar vulnerability on Asurion’s website exposed an unspecified number of AT&T account PINs. An AT&T spokesperson said that it is working with Asurion to investigate the issue and will “take any additional action that may be appropriate.”

A phone number was required for both of these attacks, limiting the number of people who may have been impacted, but AT&T and T-Mobile customers who are concerned about their account safety should choose a new PIN.

Tags: T-Mobile, AT&T
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