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1
Sep

New tech blocks noise disruption faster than the speed of sound


We’ve all been there: You finished checking social media and are finally ready to get down to some serious work when a construction crew starts drilling a hole in the sidewalk or your neighbor decides to mow their lawn. Sure, there are noise-canceling headphones available, but they’re kind of bulky and not necessarily things you want to wear for a long period of time. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a smarter solution that takes advantage of cutting-edge Internet of Things connectivity?

That’s the mission researchers from the University of Illinois’ Coordinated Science Laboratory have been working toward. Looking for a less bulky, intrusive solution to the problem of disruptive noise, they are busy developing a wireless network that can act more rapidly than sound travels.

“We spread a few IoT devices in the environment, each containing a microphone and a wireless transmitter,” Sheng Shen, a researcher on the project, told Digital Trends. “Their job is to listen to the noisy sounds much earlier than us, and send the signals to our ear-devices [wirelessly]. Because wireless signals travel 1 million times faster than sound, our ear-device gets to know the noise samples much earlier before they actually arrive at our ears.”

University of Illinois

Leveraging this “speed difference,” the team’s system achieves much better noise-cancellation performance, which kicks into action by playing an anti-noise signal only when it’s necessary. At this point, it uses the same noise-canceling waveform technology as regular noise-cancellation devices, creating a wave 180 degrees out of phase with the ambient noise. This works like an eraser for the noise in question: scrubbing it out so you no longer have to listen.

While the University of Illinois’ approach still requires an earpiece of some kind — either over-the-ear headphones or earbuds — these don’t need to entirely block the ear canal. Because they don’t have to be made of materials that absorb sound, they can also be made more comfortable to wear.

The system isn’t perfect, though. For one thing, you need to have multiple connected microphones around you to cover the possibility of sound from any angle. Nonetheless, when the completed setup is achieved, participants testing it rated it more favorably than the results achieved by even the current leading noise-canceling headphone makers.

Coming soon to a smart home near you. We really, really hope.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • The best wireless headphones
  • The best noise-canceling headphones of 2018
  • Sony WF-SP700N wireless headphones review
  • Sony Xperia Ear Duo True Wireless Earbuds Review
  • Bose SoundSport Free true wireless headphones review



1
Sep

Get the most out of your S Pen! 12 apps to use with the Galaxy Note 9


Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

If you own a Galaxy Note 9, you’re probably wondering what else you can do with the S Pen to get the most out of it. We’ve already laid out everything you can do with the S Pen on the Note 9, and now we’ve rounded up some of our favorite apps that work with the stylus, including some for artists, note-takers, doodlers, and gamers.

These apps aren’t limited to the Galaxy Note 9, as most will work with older Note devices and the S Pen. Since they’re all on the Google Play Store, you can even use them with other Android phones and a third-party stylus.

Apps for illustrations, drawings, and doodles

Colorfy

Therapeutic coloring is the new meditation, and it’s effective at reducing stress and letting people unwind after a long day. With the S Pen (or any stylus), it’s easy to get coloring on your smartphone thanks to apps like Colorfy. Named one of the “Best Apps of the Year” by Google in the “Most Beautiful” category, Colorfy provides access to a bunch of drawings that you can color with just a tap. The free version of the app is limited, and you’ll need to watch ads to claim your free image of the day, or you can pay for access starting from $40 a year. Unfortunately, there’s no option to color without just tapping, but if you enjoy your coloring, this is a great app to give your S Pen a workout.

Download now from:

Google Play

ArtFlow

Drawing with the S Pen is fun, and ArtFlow is one of the best apps for artists. The settings are varied and offer lots of choice in terms of brushes, color palettes, pencils, and more. The app supports layers, so you can add or delete layers as you go. It’s easy to hide the menus when you want a blank canvas to draw on, but a tap in the corner on the little circle brings them back up quickly. ArtFlow is perfect for Note users who want to sketch on the go or even create small masterpieces.

Download now from:

Google Play

Autodesk Sketchbook

Another excellent choice for artists is Autodesk’s Sketchbook app. The interface is simple, there are layers, and you have lots of control over the tools you use to create your masterpieces. It used to be that getting the full experience from Sketchbook would set you back a fee per year — but that’s recently changed, and you can now get the entire app — including its massive repertoire of tools, pencils, pens and more — completely free.

Google Play

Apps for note-taking, ideas, and general writing

Squid

Taking handwritten notes should be easy, and Squid makes it so. It’s one of the best apps around for an all-in-one handwriting experience, and includes the ability to take notes on PDF files, draw over images, and cast with Google Chromecast — all in addition to just being able to take notes. You can customize your paper type on screen if you need specific lines, or set it to a certain size. Best of all, if you make a mistake, you can erase it with a finger, so you don’t need to tap anything to erase and keep going. It’s free with unlockable extras, but you can subscribe to Squid Premium to unlock everything at once.

Download now from:

Google Play

OneNote

Writing notes by hand is definitely the way to go when you have a Note 9, and OneNote is one of the best note-taking apps around. You can handwrite your notes with the S Pen, and save them to the cloud. Once your notes are in the cloud, you can access them on any device that has OneNote onboard, whether it be your PC, tablet, or Note. There’s even a highlighter to mark the most important things. OneNote includes an option to pin specific notes to your home screen, too, for when you need quick access to your notes.

Download now from:

Google Play

Inkredible

If you want a more old-school calligraphy experience, Inkredible’s fountain pen will make your day. The notebook is even ruled, so you feel like you’re writing on actual paper. The app has palm rejection, so you can rest your hand on the screen, too. You’ll have some control over your pen’s thickness, but if you want other pens, you’ll have to pay $2 for them. Additional in-app purchases include unlimited notebooks and different kinds of paper, all of which cost between $2 and $3. You can share your notes as PDFs via email.

Download now from:

Google Play

Utility apps

Google Handwriting Input

Just because you’re using a messaging app doesn’t mean you have to put your S Pen away. Google’s Handwriting Input app enables users to write on their screen, instead of tapping on a keyboard. Once installed and activated, you’ll be able to write a word at a time, which will then be “read” by the software and translated. It can be a tad sluggish, and might not keep up with your writing from time to time, but it’s still a great app to check out if you never want to put your stylus away.

Download now from:

Google Play

S Pen Keeper

The S Pen is a great piece of kit, but in a busy and constantly changing world, it’s ever so easy to pop it down for a moment and lose it. That’s why you need this app. All S Pen keeper does is keep an eye on your precious S Pen, and notify you if you move away from it. It does this by tracking your motion when the S Pen is outside of its holder. It can be toggled off if you’re using it while walking, or some similar circumstance. The Galaxy Note 9 already has this feature built into the phone, but it’s handy if you have other, older Note devices.

Download now from:

Google Play

SignEasy

Signing documents with your finger just doesn’t cut it. Although the Note lets you sign PDFs easily already, SignEasy will save your signature, so you can apply it to any document. You can import documents that you need to sign from your email, Dropbox, Google Drive, or even Evernote. The app shows you documents you’ve signed in a library for quick access. Signing with the S Pen is a breeze, and people will actually be able to read your signature. It beats printing it out, signing it, and scanning it to send a digital copy.

Download now from:

Google Play

Apps for fun and games

‘Scribble Racer’

Styluses might not scream fun, but thanks to Scribble Racer, you can have a blast with your S Pen. The game asks you to navigate a road with your stylus. You pick up fruits and prizes along the way to boost your score, but be careful not to ram into the wall — or else you’ll be dead. Scribble Racer is free, but with ads, so if you want them to disappear, you’ll have to pay $1, which isn’t so bad. It’s a super-fun game that’ll take you back to your arcade days.

Download now from:

Google Play

‘Fruit Ninja’

Fruit Ninja may be a few years old, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. You probably played Fruit Ninja with your fingers, but add a stylus like the S Pen to the mix, and the game becomes a lot more interesting. Instead of using your fingers to slice the fruit, you can use the stylus, which gives the game a whole new feel. You can download the game for free from the Google Play Store.

Download now from:

Google Play

‘Draw Rider’

Draw Rider is somewhat of a classic and was known as a computer game before being ported to Android. The only issue with not using a stylus is that it can be a little hard to draw accurately. If you want to create your own stages for the game, using the S Pen will make things a whole lot more precise. Even if you didn’t play the Draw Rider computer game, this app will appeal to you.

Download now from:

Google Play

Editors’ Recommendations

  • The best stylus for note-takers and artists
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 9 vs. Galaxy Note 8 vs. Note 5: All the changes of note
  • The best Samsung Galaxy Note 9 screen protectors
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review
  • Best Samsung Galaxy Note 9 cases



1
Sep

MSI targets pros with a thin and light laptop packed with GeForce Max-Q graphics



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MSI introduced the P65 notebook, which targets content creators and professionals, during the IFA 2018 convention in Berlin. Buyers will have two options: A White Limited Edition model and a Silver Edition version. Both will be similar yet offer slightly different discrete graphics configurations and ports.

According to MSI, both versions will sport a 15.6-inch IPS screen with a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution and support for 100 percent of the sRGB space. They will be powered by an eighth-generation Core i7 “Coffee Lake-H” processor, although MSI doesn’t specify which chip the laptops will use: The Core i7-8850H or the Core i7-8750H, both of which are six-core CPUs.

Other ingredients poured into both laptops include up to 32GB of DDR4 memory clocked at 2,666MHz (2x 16GB), two M.2 SSD storage devices, a backlit keyboard (white only), a fingerprint scanner, and a 82WHr battery promising up to 9 hours of normal use. Both will ship with a 150-watt power supply.

What separates these two P65 laptops apart is their discrete graphics configuration. The White Limited Edition model will sport Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q chip, meaning you should get some really good, high-quality gaming time while the boss isn’t looking. Meanwhile, the Silver Edition model can be configured with the GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q or the non-Max-Q GeForce GTX 1050 Ti chip.

If you’re not familiar with Nvidia’s Max-Q discrete processors, they’re variants of the company’s GeForce GTX 10 Series for notebooks. While Nvidia’s non-Max-Q GPUs require large fans and bulky laptops to keep them cool, Nvidia retooled its “Pascal” design to offer the best performance in laptops with thin form factors. While they won’t match the performance of non-Max-Q chips, these discrete GPUs are the best you can find in thin and light laptops.

What also sets these laptops apart is their port complement. The White Limited Edition model features a Thunderbolt 3 port, three USB-A ports (10Gbps), one HDMI port, one Mini DisplayPort, one SD card reader, one Ethernet port, and one audio combo jack. For the Silver Edition, MSI merely swaps out the Thunderbolt 3 port for a general USB-C port running at 5Gbps. The three USB-A ports will be dialed down to 5Gbps as well.

Finally, the wireless aspect will be handled by Bluetooth 5.0 and Wireless AC connectivity. Both will have dual two-watt speakers and one digital microphone although the White Limited Edition model will include high-res audio while the Silver Edition will not. Both weigh a mere 4.14 pounds and measure 14.11 x 9.75 x 0.69 inches.

“With the P65, we’re investing deeply in professionals and content creators, bringing them high performance for all of their everyday tasks,” said Sam Chern, MSI assistant vice president of Global Marketing. “We have taken the lessons we’ve learned from our years of experience in making gaming hardware and used it to create a beautiful, professional notebook that is more powerful than any laptop in its class.”

Unfortunately, MSI did not say when these laptops will ship, nor did it provide starting prices.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • The best laptops for video editing in 2018
  • Why stop at one? Nvidia’s rumored GTX 1180 might double down on cooling fans
  • Asus claims ‘world’s thinnest’ title with its new Zephyrus S gaming laptop
  • Touchpad on the new Asus ZenBook Flip turns into an LED-illuminated NumberPad
  • Lenovo brings gaming to the ThinkPad for the first time with its X1 Extreme



1
Sep

MacRumors Giveaway: Win an Aluminum Slim Wireless Keyboard From Satechi


For this week’s giveaway, we’ve teamed up with Satechi to offer MacRumors readers a chance to win an Aluminum Slim Wireless Keyboard.

Satechi’s keyboard, priced at $74.99, is a simple wire-free keyboard that connects to your Mac or iOS device via Bluetooth.

It’s available in silver with white keys or space gray with black keys to match Apple’s silver and space gray devices. It’s also been designed with diamond cut chamfered edges for a design that rivals Apple’s own Bluetooth keyboard.


The Aluminum Slim Wireless Keyboard was created specifically with the Mac in mind with function hot keys, a full numeric keyboard, and a USB-C port for recharging. It connects via Bluetooth 3.0 and has a range of 33 feet.


You can connect up to four devices at once to the keyboard, and switch between them with a button press on one of the four Bluetooth keys. Compatible devices include iMac Pro, iMac, MacBook Air, MacBook, MacBook Pro, iPad Pro, and iPhone.


We have seven of Saetchi’s Aluminum Slim Wireless Keyboards to give away. To enter to win, use the Rafflecopter widget below and enter an email address. Email addresses will be used solely for contact purposes to reach the winners and send the prizes. You can earn additional entries by subscribing to our weekly newsletter, subscribing to our YouTube channel, following us on Twitter, or visiting the MacRumors Facebook page.

Due to the complexities of international laws regarding giveaways, only U.S. residents who are 18 years or older and Canadian residents (excluding Quebec) who have reached the age of majority in their province or territory are eligible to enter. To offer feedback or get more information on the giveaway restrictions, please refer to our Site Feedback section, as that is where discussion of the rules will be redirected.

a Rafflecopter giveawayThe contest will run from today (August 31) at 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time through 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time on September 7. The winners will be chosen randomly on September 7 and will be contacted by email. The winners will have 48 hours to respond and provide a shipping address before new winners are chosen.

Tags: giveaway, Satechi
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1
Sep

Nanoleaf Previews New ‘Canvas’ Square Lighting Panels That Work With HomeKit


Nanoleaf, the company known for its HomeKit-enabled triangular Light Panels, is expanding into new shapes with the Nanoleaf Canvas.

Nanoleaf Canvas features square-shaped touch-enabled panels that can be set to hundreds of different colors. With just a touch, you can activate the light panels, increase or decrease brightness, or change them to another color.

Nanoleaf’s Canvas panels were initially shown off at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in January, but they also made an appearance at the IFA trade show in Berlin this week, where the company offered up new details on the product.

Both CNET and Digital Trends were able to get some hands-on time with the upcoming light panels and have shared some thoughts.

According to Digital Trends, the Canvas is “more versatile” than the current triangular light panels, with touch “[elevating] the product to a whole new level.”

Like the existing Nanoleaf Light Panels, the upcoming Canvas panels are HomeKit enabled and can be controlled using the Nanoleaf app or various Siri voice commands. They can also be incorporated into scenes with other HomeKit products.

The Canvas attaches to walls, the ceiling, or furniture using adhesive pads, much like the current Light Panels, and users can arrange them in any desired pattern. Connectors join the squares together.

Up to 500 panels can be connected to a single base station with the Canvas, allowing for entire wall setups outfitted with the lights.

CNET was told that while the original plan was to get rid of the cross-shaped divider in the middle of the panels, the feature is now going to remain in place in the launch version of the device.

Caught up with @Nanoleaf CEO Gimmy Chu at #IFA2018 last night. The new, touch-sensitive Canvas panels are set to arrive December 1st. Here’s a peek at the latest design, with new base station controls like a shuffle button built right into one of the panels itself. pic.twitter.com/cmw5HtPIMw

— Ry Crist (@rycrist) August 31, 2018

There will be no more dedicated control accessory, with one of the panels in the starter kit instead offering touch button icons along the bottom edge. An on/off button will be included, as will a new shuffle button that will change the colors of the device.

Nanoleaf has also added a button for selecting favorite presets and turning on an included microphone so the panels can connect to the music you’re listening to.

Canvas will launch on December 1, with Nanoleaf planning to sell a 9-panel starter kit for $199. Interested customers can sign up for a pre-order invitation list on the Nanoleaf website.

Tags: HomeKit, Nanoleaf
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1
Sep

Alcatel 7 review


As phones continue to get better, we’re seeing some compelling options at the cheaper end of the market. Companies like Motorola have made a statement by producing very nice devices that can be had for the price of a nice steak dinner with the family.

Alcatel, much like Motorola, has plenty of experience making “cheap” but good devices. We’re now getting our first look at its newest “flagship” device the Alcatel 7. This isn’t a flagship in the normal sense, but it is the best and most expensive phone Alcatel released in 2018.

Alcatel sent over its Alcatel 7 for us to take a look at; we’ve used the device as a daily driver for the last few weeks. During this time, we’ve been using it on the MetroPCS network since the 7 is a Metro-exclusive device. You can walk into a store right now and pick one up for under $200.

Hardware

The Alcatel 7 is a bit of a trip down memory lane. While many companies work to put as many so-called premium materials in their devices today, the 7 doesn’t feature any. We’re reminded of the shiny plastic Samsung Galaxy S4 when we pick the device up.

The smooth plastic back is definitely a throwback and won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Sure, some will overlook the device for not featuring enough glass, but others will appreciate how durable this makes the device. We’ve seen enough of our share of problems with glass-backed phones to make us appreciate that this one can survive a fall.

One of the biggest issues we’ve had with the Alcatel 7 related directly to that plastic back. This thing is incredibly slippery. We have seen some devices that are worse in this respect (the Samsung Galaxy S6 comes to mind), but you will definitely want to grab a case for this phone if you want to avoid is slipping onto the floor. It didn’t really matter where this phone sat, it was always trying to slide.

The back of the device is dotted by a fingerprint scanner just below a dual camera sensor. The scanner is rougher than we’ve seen in other devices and threw us for a bit of a loop. It’s something we got used to eventually, but we never did get used to how painfully slow it is. After using Pixel and Huawei devices with lightning-quick scanners, this one felt like we were puttering along in the slow lane.

The camera, which we’ll touch on more in a little bit, is a dual 12 MP f/2.2 + 2 MP f/2.4 affair. It can record up to 1080p video at 30 fps, but that’s about it. It is flanked by a dual LED flash that does a pretty respectable job of lighting up a room. We’ve definitely seen worse.

Around front, things get a little more interesting. We’re treated to a 6-inch, 1080p display. The display follows the popular new 18:9 display ratio we’ve seen on phones for the last 18 months or so. We were really surprised at what a really nice display the Alcatel 7 has.

For this generation of devices, Alcatel went with its own in-house displays to cut down on some costs and it was a great move. Sure, you’re not going to be blown away like you would be on the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 (a phone 5x its price!), but considering this is a $180 device, we were impressed.

Colors look fantastic and pop right off the screen. Where some cheaper displays appear to have the display far below the digitizer, images felt forward and right in front of our eyes with the Alcatel 7. The only time we could really tell we were looking at a budget panel was some slight color shifting when looking at the device off-axis. Though that being said, the phone does get very bright outdoors and is very usable on all but the brightest of days. Low light scenarios were a bit different. We wish the display was able to get a little bit darker so it was a little easier to use late at night or first thing in the morning.

Above the display sits your normal selection of sensors and the front-facing camera. We really enjoyed front-facing flash for selfies, something that is bound to be a popular feature with younger individuals looking for a solid phone. Just beware, this thing gets BRIGHT and will leave you blinking for a few minutes after. Still, it’s a nice touch.

Another nice feature we’re seeing in more devices is fantastic buttons. The Alcatel 7 has wonderfully clicky buttons and a textured power button. Nothing ruins an experience quicker than mushy buttons that you have to think about when pressing. Alcatel’s choice of buttons here is great. They’re tactile, have great travel, and almost no wiggle. Sure, this might be a small thing, but its this attention to detail we really appreciate.

The top of the device hides an IR blaster that you’d be forgiven for forgetting about. It was trendy to stick these devices back in the HTC One M7 days, but that quickly died out. We love to see Alcatel keeping the idea alive here. It’s convenient to grab our phone, open up an app and have control over our cable box, television, or window-mounted air conditioning unit.

The opposite end of the device holds the USB type-C port and a speaker. We weren’t blown away by the sound quality of the speaker, but it was fine for a speaker call in a moderately loud situation. You aren’t going to stun anyone with how awesome music sounds coming out of this thing, but it’ll get the job.

And speaking of music coming out of this thing– yes– it does have a 3.5mm headphone jack!

Software

Cheaper Android devices are a mixed bag in terms of software. We see some like Nokia embracing stock Android. But, equally as often, we see others like Blu put really ridiculous skins on the phone.

Alcatel tries to walk a fine line here and does a pretty decent job.

After you get through the initial setup, you’re greeted by a launcher and icons that will make you roll your eyes. But, upon further inspection, there’s a lot to like here. Yes, the Joy Launcher is terrible and the icons are laughably bad but those are easily replaced. And hey, at least the Google pane is to the left of the homescreen, something we’d like to see more often.

The rest of the device is left unmolested by customization by Alcatel. Notifications, settings, and other important system apps look just like they would on your Pixel device. There are some added settings like Face Unlock (which I was never able to get to work despite repeated efforts), but you’ll feel at home here if you’ve ever owned a Nexus or Pixel device.

Where Alcatel and Metro go wrong is the apps it has included with the system. We’ve seen devices that have included more, but this definitely on the high side. The phone is loaded down with apps like Metro’s own “App Store”, MetroZONE, Lookout, Device Unlock, Hotspot, Name ID, myMetro, and more.

Metro PCS’ App Store application is nothing more than an advertisement. The app gives users links to suggested and promoted applications and does nothing more than link to the Play Store listings for these apps. It’s like Metro asked “How can we make some money?” and came up with this. It’s terrible and shouldn’t exist in the first place.

Another pretty terrible inclusion is the MetroZone app. The app aims to be a one-stop shop for all of your local news, movie times, events, gas prices and more.

I wish I had never opened this app.

The Alcatel 7 unit we have for review is now taken over by advertisements because of the MetroZone app. Every time we open up the device, we see an ad. They appear full screen until you close them, which doesn’t sound like a big deal until you quickly need to get some info from your device. It feels like I’m using Internet Explorer in 2007 without a popup blocker.

I think what honestly bugs me the most is this app doesn’t give me any information I didn’t already have access to. Weather applications are extremely popular. So are apps for gas prices and movie times. And then there are the sponsored blog posts it tries to get you to click on….

Ugh.

One addition that we did like is Alcatel’s Smart Manager. This app allows you to keep an eye on which apps are opening on startup and which apps are deep in hibernation. I’m not sure how useful it will be to most people but giving users more control over their devices is never a bad thing.

We also appreciated the power saving modes included. Most Android OEMs include some kind of lower power mode, but the Alcatel 7 has two. We have our normal power saving mode that kicks on when your battery gets low and limits background activity, throttles down your processor speed, and dims the screen.

Then we have an even more powerful mode that turns the wallpaper black, limits which apps can be launched and is designed to get the absolute most out of your device.

We love this restrictive power saving mode, but there seems to be a problem with its implementation on the Alcatel 7. Our unit constantly reloaded the power saving mode and therefore wouldn’t let us access anything. It took a full power cycle get out of the mode and we came away with a bit of a bad taste in our mouth. If we had been in an emergency situation with a dwindling battery, this could make the difference between getting help and not.

There are a ton of little quirks with the Alcatel 7’s software, but at its core, it sticks pretty close to stock. If you replace the launcher and disable some of the built-in apps, you could probably enjoy your time with the Alcatel 7 a little bit more than we did.

Performance

The Alcatel 7 is a budget device through and through. It features a MediaTek Helio P23 SoC clocked at 2.5GHz. The octa-core chip is not the fastest or most powerful out there and it shows in the day-to-day performance of the Alcatel 7.

We found tasks like opening apps or scrolling through lists frustrating. There is lag in almost all areas of the device. The system routinely drops frames during animations which leads to stuttering and a choppy feel. Android is heavily dependant on the device being able to render graphics and animation smoothly for an overall pleasing software experience and the Helio P23 really falls flat here.

But, it’s not all bad news. The Alcatel 7 reminds us a lot of that older car that takes a few cranks to get going, but once it does, is completely fine. We saw a ton of dropped frames and sluggish behavior after waking the phone up from a deep sleep, but once we used the device for more than a minute or so, we were good to go. Scrolling through Reddit or browsing Instagram was completely fine. It’s a weird issue, but one we were able to reliably produce.

Unfortunately, the bad news doesn’t stop there. The phone isn’t properly able to support the camera app because of how much lag is in the system. Remember the front-facing flash we mentioned? Well, almost every selfie we tried to snap with the flash enabled failed. The flash would light up, go dim again and we’d still be waiting on the camera shutter.

It is ridiculous for a phone in 2018 to behave like this. If Alcatel’s key demographic for this device is younger individuals looking for an inexpensive phone, it is really shooting itself in the foot with this terrible experience. I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but people like to take pictures of themselves and their friends with the front-facing camera and they don’t like to be embarrassed by terrible phone performance.

The Alcatel 7 features just 2 GB of RAM and this initially gave us pause going into this review. We routinely review devices with double or triple that amount of RAM and we were interested to see how full-fledged Android would perform with just 2 GB of RAM.

We have to say that we were pleasantly surprised. There were definitely apps that got pushed out of memory before they would on other devices with more RAM, but we never encountered an app being killed while used. We were also surprised to pick up the phone after a while and find some of our social media apps still in memory. Games are another story and die almost immediately, but that is to be expected.

If performance is somewhat disappointing, then battery life is the standout. The Alcatel 7 features a 4,000 mAh battery and supports quick charging. We were able to get well over a day’s worth of use with 40% to 50% of our battery left at the end of the day. The large battery capacity coupled with a weak processor and average display resolution really lended to some fantastic battery life. If you’re a regular user, we could easily see two days of battery life here.

Camera

Most people aren’t going to expect a camera experience that rivals a Samsung flagship on a $180 device. And they’d be right to temper their expectations.

The 12 MP + 2 MP main camera is nothing to write home about. Dynamic range is weak, auto-focus can be hit or miss and we see a lot of colors that are misrepresented. Not only that, pictures with bright light sources routinely look blown out, destroying many lovely outside shots.

Is it possible to take a good picture with the Alcatel 7? Sure. But, you’re going to have to adjust with the included Pro mode, and even then, we’d suggest just sticking them on social media. If you’re looking to pick this device up for your kid as their first device, you probably aren’t going to hear much complaining. But, if you’re used to higher end devices, you will probably be frustrated here.

Click here to view an album of Alcatel 7 camera samples on Google Photos

Conclusion

During our review period, I asked several people for their thoughts on the Alcatel 7. Almost universally, people thought the device felt pretty cheap. On its face, that’s not a great sign. But, when I asked those same people how much they thought the device would retail, I didn’t get any answers under $300. Sure, it might not feel premium, but Alcatel isn’t asking for a premium price either.

One area where the 7 shows its value is the display. We really can’t say enough how impressed we were with the panel on this device. We’ve seen devices that cost two to three times more with inferior displays. Since we spend our entire lives looking at screens now, it makes sense to pick a phone with a quality display and the Alcatel 7 won’t disappoint.

Unfortunately, the Alcatel 7 disappoints in enough areas that we’d suggest holding off if you’re used to the flagship lifestyle. The MediaTek processor in the Alcatel 7 just isn’t good enough to get the job done. We found the experience of using this phone very frustrating due to slowdowns and lag.

We’re also disappointed in the apps Metro and Alcatel loaded on the device. Some are pointless while some almost feel malicious like MetroZone. Sure, there aren’t a ton of these apps (and far less than you’d expect to see on a Samsung flagship), but they’re just plain bad. If you do decide to pick this phone up, I’d avoid these at all cost. Uninstall or disable where you can.

But these trade-offs aren’t enough to avoid this phone. There are few devices in a carrier store that carry a price tag under $200 and that makes the Alcatel 7 very attractive. If you’re picking this up for your kid or perhaps an older family member that needs a first smartphone, they’ll probably be fine with this.

Alcatel has a long history of making quality devices and they’ve done so here again. The Alcatel 7 certainly isn’t perfect, but it gets the job done.

1
Sep

Microsoft confirms Redstone 5 as Windows 10 October 2018 Update


Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

Microsoft confirmed during the IFA 2018 show in Berlin that the next major update to Windows 10 will officially be called Windows 10 October 2018 Update. Internally dubbed as Redstone 5, the upcoming update brings a new set of features including a retooled Game Bar, a revamped version of Notepad, a Cloud Clipboard feature for sharing files across all Windows 10 devices, and more.

Unfortunately, Microsoft currently isn’t providing an exact release date, though the company now confirms the release window. Based on the preview builds provided to the Windows Insider participants, Redstone 5 has remained feature-locked for quite some time. The latest build — Preview Build 17735, which released on August 10 — merely provides a handful of general changes, improvements, and fixes.

One of the more notable features coming in the October 2018 update is the introduction of SwiftKey on Windows 10. Already available on Android and iOS phones and tablets, it enables you to type on virtual keyboards by swiping rather than tapping out each letter. Microsoft acquired SwiftKey in February 2016 for $250 million.

“SwiftKey’s predictive technology aligns with Microsoft’s investments and ambition to develop intelligent systems that can work more on the user’s behalf and under their control,” the company said.

The update will also add support for Microsoft’s “Your Phone” app. It essentially keeps you from lifting your smartphone to check messages and so on by synchronizing the device’s Your Phone app to the Your Phone app on Windows 10. For example, you may receive a text message on your Windows 10 desktop piped in from your phone, and you can either respond immediately through the pop-up or open the Your Phone app and reply there. Cortana already does something similar, but this process promises to be easier and more “native” to the Windows 10 experience.

In addition to formally introducing Windows 10 October 2018 Update, Microsoft also showcased the first “always connected” PC sporting Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 850 chip: The Lenovo Yoga C630 WOS. What’s interesting here is that Microsoft is moving away from the “Windows on ARM” terminology and is now using “Windows on Snapdragon” to describe this version of Windows 10.

On the outside, Windows on Snapdragon/ARM looks no different than Windows 10 on Intel- and AMD-based PCs. But at its core, the version of Windows speaks a different “language” because Snapdragon chips don’t rely on the same processor design as those provided by AMD and Intel. Qualcomm, Samsung, Nvidia and a handful of other device makers license designs from ARM to create their own flavors of CPUs. These chips typically power battery-reliant smartphones and tablets although Microsoft and Qualcomm are now heavily pushing ARM-based chips into the laptop market.

Other non-Snapdragon devices showcased by Microsoft during the IFA 2018 show included the Lenovo Yoga Book C930 sporting a second E Ink display that replaces the physical keyboard. The Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1, Microsoft’s own Surface Go, and the Acer Predator Triton 900 gaming laptop were highlights during the show as well. As previously reported, Acer’s upcoming laptop sports a flippable display using a special, CNC-machined hinge.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • How to download the Windows 10 April 2018 Update
  • Lenovo’s Snapdragon-powered Yoga C630 promises 25 hours of battery life
  • Microsoft’s foldable ‘Andromeda’ pocket device may never surface
  • Windows 10 Mail will let you handwrite your email with a stylus
  • Microsoft’s two-screen Andromeda may arrive in 2019 with Productivity Mode



1
Sep

Huawei hasn’t abandoned smartwatches, but wants to make them better


Huawei CEO Richard Yu said the company hasn’t abandoned the smartwatch market, and is instead working towards making smartwatches better before releasing a new one. Yu’s comments came during an interview session with Digital Trends and a handful of other reporters.

When asked if smartwatches were still an area the company was interested in, Yu replied, “Yes, but it needs more innovation, and we are working on that.”

“We want to make bigger improvements and make the experience much better than today,” Yu said. “That’s my target. We want to make the smartwatch more useful, more intimate, more functional, and with much longer battery life.”

Huawei last released a smartwatch in April 2017, the Huawei Watch 2, and it was one of the best available at the time. However, it has not followed it up with a new model. This isn’t unique to Huawei, with the only other mobile manufacturer recently embracing the smartwatch being Samsung. In the world of fashion watches, there have been more releases, but all suffer from short battery life and sometimes poor overall performance.

“Today we have two days battery life,” Yu said. “I hope to have one running for a week. We want much better performance, and more usability.”

This usability may extend to adding more artificial intelligence features to smartwatches. Huawei is heavily invested in AI, and Yu said the technology will be “for sure” a major part of future models. He mentioned how on-watch AI processing would help increase functionality, a system key to Huawei’s success with smartphone A.I. processing, due to the Neural Processing Unit (NPU) inside the Kirin 970 and new Kirin 980 chips.

More features, longer battery life

Adding such technology to a smartwatch could potentially speed up voice assistance and other A.I.-related features. However this, along with a built in SIM card for standalone use, means greater power consumption, which quickly leads to the classic smartwatch Catch-22 situation — short battery life.

“We cannot increase the battery size, because the watch will become too big” Yu correctly pointed out, emphasizing the importance of developing low-power consumption technology for watches, resulting in much longer battery life without sacrificing features. Does this mean a Kirin system-on-a-chip for wearables is being developed? Yu declined to comment, but did say it had also talked with Qualcomm, and that a new wearable chipset is essential for longer battery life on a smartwatch.

While this isn’t evidence of a new Huawei watch being released soon, it is confirmation that not only is it still interested in wearables, but it also understands what it will take to make a good one.

There are some major, and very welcome, changes coming to smartwatches this year, including Qualcomm’s announcement on September 10, and Google’s newly revised Wear OS software, so it’s exciting to see a manufacturer that has already produced several excellent examples is still passionate about making more.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Huawei’s new Kirin 980 chip is so fast, it can probably slow down time
  • Qualcomm’s newest smartwatch chips are made just for kids
  • Huawei might be making a powerful phone for mobile gamers
  • The best smartwatches
  • Here’s everything you need to know about the Huawei P20



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