Along with its leak of the 4K Chromecast earlier today, VentureBeat is showing off this picture that it says is of Google’s upcoming Pixel phone. Along with the larger Pixel XL, it’s expected to be the successor to previous Nexus devices, with a 5-inch 1080p screen and 32GB of storage onboard. A potential $649 starting price is also raising eyebrows, but previous leaks from Android Police indicate that the most notable feature will be software built to maximize Google’s new Assistant AI.
We’re expecting to find out all of these details and more at Google’s October 4th event, as well as news about a new router and Google Home. Of course, if you just can’t wait, third parties like Nova Launcher and Action Launcher have already pushed out updates that can give your phone the Pixel look, if not its tight Google integration.
HTC today announced two new mid-range Android smartphones, a budget-oriented model called the Desire 10 Lifestyle and a more capable, more expensive handset called the Desire 10 Pro.
The Lifestyle model is a 5.5-inch device with a 720p Gorilla Glass display, quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, 2GB or 3GB RAM, 16GB or 32GB expandable storage, a 13-megapixel f/2.2 rear camera, 5-megapixel f.2.8 front-facing camera, and 24-bit Hi-Res sound certified by Dolby Audio.
The Pro handset is the same size and has the same storage capacity options and audio features, but comes with a 1080p display, 64-bit Octa-core MediaTek Helio P10 processor, 3GB or 4GB RAM, a 20-megapixel f/2.2 camera with laser autofocus, a 13-megapixel f.2.2 front-facing camera with selfie panorama, and a fingerprint reader.
The two “Art Deco” inspired phones – which include a headphone jack – are matte plastic with a metal trim, and take design cues from the HTC 10, the company’s flagship smartphone for 2016, coming on the heels of last year’s HTC One M9 device. Both phones will be available in black, white, light blue, and dark blue.
HTC’s new Desire 10 range represents the company’s attempt to compete below Samsung’s and Apple’s flagship high-end smartphones, in a cheaper market segment populated by devices like the Moto G4 and Moto G4 Plus.
HTC says the handsets will be released exclusively in Europe to begin with, with the Lifestyle available from today and the Pro model coming in November. Prices are as yet unconfirmed for the latter model, but the Lifestyle costs £249, which converts to around $325.
Some MacRumors readers may remember HTC was forced to deny claims last year that the company’s flagship One A9 copied the iPhone. Apple declined to comment on the claims, but has taken legal action against Samsung for perceived copying in the past.
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The last time we saw a new Desire phone, HTC had basically speckled it with paint in the name of fashion. We can’t blame them — the effect was pretty damned cool — but now the company is trying something a little different with the new Desire 10 Lifestyle and Pro. HTC’s midrange work is getting wrapped up in a classy new look, and (spoiler alert) it’s a pretty impressive change. The Lifestyle is set to hit certain markets this month, ahead of the more expensive Pro model in November, and we got to take a closer look at both of them just a little while ago.
As you’ve easily deduced, the Pro is the more powerful of the Desire 10 twins. That’s mostly thanks to the octa-core MediaTek Helio P10, assisted by either 3GB or 4GB of RAM; the former model comes with 32GB of storage, down from the latter’s 64GB. Plenty of power to render things on the 5.5-inch 1080p IPS LCD screen and keep it all moving at a respectable clip, too. It’s always a little tricky to get a sense of what a phone’s capable of pre-launch, but poking around in the lightly skinned build of Android 6.0 Marshmallow felt more than adequately snappy. Anyway, just above that screen is a 13-megapixel camera (with a software-powered wide-angle selfie trick to boot), while a 20-megapixel camera sits on the opposite side. And below that? A rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, a nice touch that doesn’t often wind up in mid-range devices.
All of that (plus a 3,000mAh battery) is packed into a really handsome frame, with a matte body that gets criss-crossed with gold-ish antenna bands. This change is a far cry from the youthful Desire 530 — the Desire 10 Pro isn’t as exuberant as it is elegant. The tight tolerances and sturdy feel definitely give the 10 Pro a more premium air, and HTC’s color choices don’t hurt either. (The phone will be available in black, white, navy blue and a light blue the company’s calling “Valentine Lux”.)
You’d be forgiven for thinking the Desire 10 Lifestyle is just another barely-touched variant. After all, that’s definitely the impression HTC is trying to give off — the Lifestyle looks basically identical to its more expensive sibling despite its more modest spec sheet. There are some tell-tale signs, though, like the lack of a fingerprint sensor and a smaller flash setup under its main 13-megapixel camera. Once the Desire 10 Lifestyle is on, the phone’s lower-end ambitions are confirmed by the 5.5-inch 720p Super LCD screen — it’s still decently bright and vivid, if not the crispest out there. The rest of the differences are under the hood: there’s a slightly pokier Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 chipset clocked at 1.6GHz, either 2GB or 3GB of RAM, 2700mAh batteries, and 32 or 64GB of storage.
There is one other big deviation from the Pro, however: the Desire 10 Lifestyle packs support for 24-bit high-res audio like the full-blown 10. Sure, you’ll lose out on a crisper screen and biometric unlocking, but the lure of improved audio is still pretty tantalizing. That’s also the sort of feature that rarely pops up in lower-end smartphones, so here’s hoping that trend keeps up for a while. And beyond that, HTC’s build quality impresses even when it comes to less expensive hardware (think around £249 in the UK). From a distance, there aren’t any discernible, physical differences between the Pro and the Lifestyle.
As usual, HTC is leaving most of the pricing and availability details up to the carriers and retailers themselves, but if you’re in the US, you can just put your wallet away. It’ll be a least a little while before either version of the Desire 10 winds up around these parts, and probably longer still if the Desires turn out to be hits and supplies get constrained. After just a little bit of time spent with HTC’s new devices, it was pretty clear that the line that represents “good enough” smartphone performance has gotten pretty high. Then again, it’s not like the best phones are guaranteed successes: the 10 was the best device HTC had cooked up in ages, and even its tremendous quality and performance couldn’t drive huge demand for it.
For years, Google’s reference Android smartphones have been relative bargains. Even the $649 Nexus 6 was a steal considering its then cutting-edge screen. You might have to get used to shelling out much more going forward, though. A reportedly trustworthy Android Police source claims that Google’s HTC-made 2016 phones (currently known as the Pixel and Pixel XL) will start at $649. That’s the typical manufacturer price for a mainstream device like the iPhone 7 or Galaxy S7, and well above the $499 it took to buy the Nexus 6P when it was new. The Pixel XL would almost certainly cost more, too.
Supposedly, Google is counting on financing options to soften the blow. And while Verizon will purportedly be the only US carrier selling the Pixels in stores, you’d still get to buy them online from Google.
It’s not clear what’s prompting the price hike, provided it’s real. High-end specs by themselves don’t dictate prices at Google. However, CEO Sundar Pichai previously hinted that future Google phones would be more “opinionated,” carrying distinctive software features that help them stand out. In that light, the Pixel line may represent a change in focus. Instead of focusing on developers and early adopters, as with the Nexus line, Google could directly compete with high-end Android manufacturers that already offer unique takes on Android. That’s something of a gamble — does the Google name command that much of a premium? You might not have long to wait for the truth, however, when rumors have the Pixel range launching on October 4th.
Source: Android Police
We saw some significant developments in the field of space exploration this week. Jeff Bezos unveiled his latest heavy lift rocket. The Gaia satellite has mapped its billionth Milky Way star. China launched another piece of its Heavenly Palace into orbit. And Galaxies just can’t seem to stop exploding. Numbers, because how else are you going to accurately measure your insignificance against the infinite voids of space?
Almost exactly seven years ago, Alienware joined the Tokyo Game Show for the first time to launch its redesigned machines since Dell’s acquisition. This week, the American company is once again present there to launch the Alienware 17 and 15 laptops for Japan, with one of their main selling points being their VR capability courtesy of NVIDIA’s GTX 10-Series graphics. While this won’t change the fact that high-end VR rigs are still relatively expensive, global marketing director Joe Olmsted reckons the mobility aspect will be enough to turn VR into the new home party machine that can be shared between friends — much like what he did with the Nintendo Wii back in the days.
“I don’t know if you remember but ten years ago it was hard to get a Wii, and yet everyone wanted one, everyone wanted to play it, everyone wanted to do tennis and bowling,” recalls Olmsted, who first joined Alienware 13 years ago. “So we had one, we just lugged it around in a bag and went from place to place to place, you know, be wherever our buddies were at on a Friday night.”
“With VR, I can see that happening; I certainly do it myself.”
Over the last few months, Olmsted has been bringing his company’s next-generation VR-ready notebook (he sure likes to tease) and his own HTC Vive — all tucked into one bag — to friends’ houses for extra entertainment at parties and gatherings. As he quite rightly puts it, “it’s basically a portable VR [rig].” Neither do the Vive nor the Oculus Rift have to be stuck at home because of the bulky desktop PC they’re tied to, as the latest high-end laptops can perform just as well, let alone whatever future model that Olmsted is already using. For those planning on doing the same, you may also want to bring tripods to prop the trackers up.
According to the exec, the GTX 10-Series graphics is the biggest performance jump he’s ever seen on laptops, but that’s not to say the previous generation isn’t good enough for VR, either. Take Alienware’s VR backpack, for instance: It’s essentially an Alpha R2 mini PC powered by the older GTX 960, and it’s utilized by Australia’s Zero Latency to host its six-player VR zombie game. Obviously, for those who are buying a PC now for the sake of VR, you’ll want to go straight to the GTX 10-Series to be as future-proof as possible. In the case of the Alienware 17 and 15 laptops, they’ll be hitting the US store on September 30th and then its UK counterpart on October 4th.
The biggest gaming show outside of the US, the Tokyo Game Show has a different atmosphere that;s all its own. While it’s contracted and shrunk over the last few years, the heat and interest in virtual reality has reinvigorated the show — despite the lack of an official Xbox or Nintendo presence. Sony may have already revealed two new consoles in the last month, but it wanted to remind everyone that it’s got a VR headset coming out. In short: lots of VR, PlayStation and domestic-centered games, sprinkled with just enough weird.
For a man who spent 18 years at HTC turning smartphones from mere business tools into ubiquitous consumer gadgets, Peter Chou knows a thing or two about nurturing new product categories. In fact, he had already started his second chapter at the company by bringing us the Vive virtual reality headset before his quiet departure last August. Today, Chou’s mission is extended by way of two chairman roles: One at visual effects studio Digital Domain where he can “fully and deeply understand” VR content creation, and another at VR game studio Futuretown where he is also an investor. This may seem like a weird match given Chou’s prior focus on hardware, but to him it felt like a logical next step. After all, it’s now content, not hardware, pushing VR forward.
Chou crossed paths with Futuretown while he was still developing the Vive. At the time, Chou wanted to extend HTC’s resources to support small VR companies with great potential, so he tasked his team with a scouting mission. That led them to Futuretown, which happened to be located nearby. One day its CEO Johan Yang simply walked over to meet Chou for some guidance.
“They were worried at the time because they didn’t really know where the market was, but I told them, every industry is like that,” Chou told Engadget ahead of Futuretown’s Tokyo Game Show press event. “At the beginning you can’t really see the market and how great the market is, but if you have a vision, if you believe that is the future, then you should work on that and build capabilities in that area, and try to be the best.”
Chou would later invest in Futuretown personally and then serve as a mentor under the “Honorary Chairman” title. This proved to be a smart move. The startup has already three VR games that quickly rose to popularity. In particular, Cloudlands: VR Minigolf now owns 30 percent of the Vive market share, which translates to about 30,000 units out of the estimated total of 100,000. The game was also recently updated with a level editor along with over 200 user-created levels from the earlier beta program. Furthermore, Futuretown will add Oculus Rift support to at least two of those games, and they are ready to launch as soon as the Oculus Touch controller arrives — likely by end of year, as speculated by Yang.
Back in July, Chou returned to his hardware roots and announced Digital Domain’s professional 4K 360-degree camera, the Zeus. Then, this week he unveiled Futuretown’s first hardware product, the 5D Totalmotion modular simulator ride, in the hopes of making VR more immersive and user friendly. It will have four games at launch: Whiteout: Ski VR, Infinity Rider: Motorcycle VR, Wave Breaker: Surf VR and Stallion Adventures: Horse Riding VR.
Neither Yang nor Chou would say how much the machine might cost, but it’s clear that it won’t come cheap and is geared towards the business market (think: malls, arcades and internet cafes). Yang explained that these are the sorts of places where VR is already gaining momentum in parts of Asia, HTC and Futuretown’s home region.
Peter Chou showing off Digital Domain’s professional 360-degree 4K camera, the Zeus, at a press conference in July. (Image credit: Digital Domain)
While Futuretown isn’t the first company to release such hardware for enhanced VR experience, Chou is confident that his motion feedback machine is already better and easier to use than what the competition is offering. What he doesn’t have total control over right now, however, is the headset. It’s certainly come a long way from the days when you could easily get motion sickness after just one or two minutes, whereas now you might be able to last 30 to 40 minutes straight. Even so, Chou reckons the industry is still a ways off from realizing his vision. He described VR’s current state as feeling like somewhere between 480p and 720p (even though it’s a 2K display inside most high-end headsets), which is still usable but leaves room for improvement. Obviously, it would also be more convenient to go wireless as well.
Obviously, it would also be more convenient to go wireless as well.
“I would say the 1080p kind of experience plus wireless are two to three years away,” Chou said “There’s some solution coming out of maybe second half of next year, but I think it will probably go to the next step in 2018.” Similarly, Chou and Yang expect some strong smartphone VR solutions to arrive in the same time frame, especially given how tech giants like Google, Qualcomm, Intel and NVIDIA are more actively looking at VR and inside-out tracking technologies. Just look at Google’s Tango for a sense of where these companies are headed.
Oculus founder Palmer Luckey trying Futuretown’s 5D Totalmotion platform at the Tokyo Game Show. (Image credit: Futuretown)
For those who think two to three years seems like a long time, Chou would like to remind you that it took even longer for smartphones to catch on — five or six years, he says. “In 2005, if you said everyone would have a smartphone, nobody would believe that. But today, the smartphone is an essential part of our lives.” Perhaps, he says, VR will follow a similar path to eventual success — a future where our smartphones alone can somehow deliver compelling VR experience without breaking our wallets or draining our handset batteries. Or maybe he is wrong. Maybe by that point the smartphone will have a different form factor altogether. Time will tell.
Squanchtendo Games, the recently founded VR studio from “Rick & Morty” co-creator, Justin Roiland, has just unveiled its first game: Accounting. But don’t let the benign name fool you, this virtual reality experience appears to be just as ingeniously deranged as its animated predecessor.
Squanchtendo collaborated with Crows Crows Crows game studio to create the game which, according to the Squanchtendo release, only took about a week to craft. It is available for the HTC Vive for free through Steam VR. Details are thin as to what exactly you do in the game — besides account, of course — but you can bet there’s going to be a whole lot of messed up shit in there.
Source: Accounting VR
When we last met Futuretown’s CEO Johan Yang back in February, his startup appeared to be merely a virtual reality game studio, with its popular title Cloudlands: VR Minigolf currently owning 30 percent of the HTC Vive market share. Today, the company is entering the hardware space by announcing its 5D Totalmotion at the Tokyo Game Show. This aptly-named device is a cylindrical motion feedback machine that can fit any module on top to simulate different types of scenarios, such as riding, standing and seated experiences. To demonstrate these, Futuretown also announced four new VR games: Whiteout: Ski VR, Infinity Rider: Motorcycle VR, Wave Breaker: Surf VR and Stallion Adventures: Horse Riding VR.
Even though Futuretown — backed by former HTC CEO Peter Chou — started off as a studio dedicated to the HTC Vive platform, its 5D Totalmotion is open platform and supports two other VR systems out of the box: Oculus Rift and 3Glasses from China. In fact, the company’s using the Rift for its 5D Totalmotion demos at the Tokyo Game Show, in order to maximize the amount of usable space at the booth. CTO Justin Liebregts explained that if all the games ran on the Vive, his team would need to set up partitions between each setup due to potential interference from the passive Lighthouse trackers, whereas the Rift doesn’t have this issue since it uses active trackers that are plugged into the PC.
Yang said he’s aiming to launch the 5D Totamotion within the first half of 2017. That said, all four of the aforementioned titles were playable at the show. I started off with Wave Breaker: Surf VR which got me surfing from a fast-flowing river all the way to the big waves on the sea. It was, to my surprise, physically intense. I wrongly assumed that I wouldn’t need the handlebar, but eventually I learned that I needed to do a lot of twisting, which is a good thing that the standing module comes with shoe bindings à la snowboards. I was also given a Woojer haptic sensor vest to put on in order to simulate the sensation of rush, which Sure, I kept missing the balloons, but it was still fun and proved to be great way to work out. I was already sweating a bit after just this one game.
I was then given a chance to recover by riding on a horse and an eagle in Stallion Adventures: Horse Riding VR. Admittedly, I freaked out a little when the first cheetah briefly chased me, but it turned out that the horse and the eagle were on a fixed track due to the game’s early-stage development. The only control I had over was the horse’s speed: I simply had to tug the riding module’s rope and bob in sync with the horse’s movement to accelerate, and then pull the rope back to slow down. Hopefully the final game will allow more freedom to explore the virtual world.
Later on I checked out Whiteout: Ski VR which let me ski down a mountain in any way I wanted (and also knock out other virtual skiers for a laugh). While I’m no expert in skiing, I wish the game had a dedicated module that would allow my feet to move separately like in real life, rather than using the same module I used for surfing earlier. But that’s not to say it wasn’t fun.
Last but not least, I hopped on the motorcycle module for Infinity Rider: Motorcycle VR. I appreciated how this module offered a realistic handlebar with brake handles and acceleration grip on the right, but the overall body didn’t provide enough tilt for turning (Chou assured me that this will be addressed in an upcoming iteration of hardware). Also, for some reason, I quickly felt sick and had to hop off as soon as the game ended. My guess is it was to do with a combination of visual delay and motion delay, but there was also the possibility of me not getting enough rest after the three previous games. Hopefully Futuretown can fix these issues, as this particular ride has a lot of potential — just imagine riding a speeder bike in a Star Wars VR game.
It’ll obviously be a while before we see the 5D Totalmotion in public places. While there are already other types of VR rides in malls and arcades across Asia, Chou, who also serves as the Honorary Chairman at Futuretown, claims the 5D Totalmotion is already more compelling — even more so than those at Tokyo’s VR Zone, according to feedback he received — and is also much easier to deploy. He isn’t worried about being comparatively late nor potentially being copied by others. “We have soul. People who copy have no soul… By the time we ship the products, they will be so much better [than others].”