ZTE Launches Axon M, a Foldable, Dual-Screened Smartphone

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ZTE’s new Axon M is a full-featured smartphone with a hinge that connects two full-size displays, making the Axon M a flip phone of sorts. “Its front screen is a 5.2-inch, 1080p panel, it has last year’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 20-megapixel camera,” reports The Verge. “But flip the phone over and there’s an identical 5.2-inch display on the back, making the Axon M anything but run-of-the-mill.” From the report: The M’s hinge allows the rear screen to flip forward and slot right next to the main display, creating an almost tablet sized canvas. You can stretch the home screen and apps across the two displays for a larger working area, or you can run two different apps at the same time, one on each screen. You can also “tent” the phone, and mirror the displays so two people can see the same content at the same time. ZTE says that it is utilizing Android’s default split-screen features to enable many of the dual-screen functions, and it has made sure the “top 100” Android apps work on the phone. In the “extended” mode, which stretches a single app across both screens, the tablet version of the app is presented (provided there is one, which isn’t always a guarantee with Android apps). It’s even possible to stream video on both screens at the same time and switch the audio between them on the fly, which might be useful if you want to watch a sports game and YouTube at the same time, I guess.

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Android Oreo Helps Google’s Pixel 2 Smartphones Outperform Other Android Flagships

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MojoKid highlights Hot Hardware’s review of Google’s new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones: Google officially launched it’s Pixel 2 phones today, taking the wraps off third-party reviews. Designed by Google but manufactured by HTC (Pixel 2) and LG (Pixel 2 XL), the two new handsets also boast Google’s latest Android 8.0 operating system, aka Oreo, an exclusive to Google Pixel and certain Nexus devices currently. And in some ways, this is also a big advantage. Though they are based on the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor as many other Android devices, Google’s new Pixel 2s manage to outpace similarly configured smartphones in certain benchmarks by significant margins (Basemark, PCMark and 3DMark). They also boot dramatically faster than any other Android handset on the market, in as little as 10 seconds. Camera performance is also excellent, with both the 5-inch Pixel 2 and 6-inch Pixel 2 XL sporting identical electronics, save for their displays and chassis sizes. Another notable feature built into Android Oreo is Google Now Playing, an always-listening, Shazam-like service (if you enable it) that displays song titles on the lock screen if it picks up on music playing in the room you’re in. Processing is done right on the Pixel 2 and it doesn’t need network connectivity. Another Pixel 2 Oreo-based trick is Google Lens, a machine vision system that Google notes “can recognize places like landmarks and buildings, artwork that you’d find in a museum, media covers such as books, movies, music albums, and video games…” The Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are available now on Verizon or unlocked via the Google Store starting at $649 and $849 respectively for 64GB storage versions, with a $100 up-charge for 128GB variants.

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Microsoft Begins Rolling Out Windows 10 Fall Creators Update

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Microsoft has started to roll out Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, aka, “Redstone 3” to the general public. The company has been testing this new major update to its desktop operating system for over six months. Much like the previous major updates to Windows 10, the Fall Creators Update is also free to Windows 10 users. Some of the remarkable new features the company is shipping with Fall Creators Update include a major design tweak called Fluent Design System. The design changes, CNET writes, are “subtle, like motion and blur effects, along with the changes to the way windows appear.” Also in the offering are support for mixed reality, improvements to Photos app, and OneDrive on-demand files — a feature that many users have long requested. You can read more about these new features and improvements here.

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Microsoft Surface Book 2 Puts Desktop Brains in a Laptop Body

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David Pierce, writing for Wired: As Microsoft went to create the Surface Book 2, the company once again tried to bust categories. The result is the most combinatory device Microsoft’s made yet. It’s a laptop (screens measure 13 or 15 inches; there’s a keyboard and trackpad) — and it’s also a tablet (the screen detaches, you can use a pen, everything’s touch-friendly), and it’s also a desktop. A stupendously powerful one, at that: It runs on Intel’s new eighth-generation quad-core processors, in either a Core i5 or Core i7 version. The higher-end models come with Nvidia’s GeForce discrete graphics, up to 16 gigs of RAM, and as much as 1 terabyte of solid storage. All that in a fanless body that gets up to 17 hours of battery life, and weighs about 3.5 pounds for the smaller model or 4.2 pounds for the larger. What does all that mean? Microsoft claims the smaller model is three times more powerful than the last Surface Book, and the 15-inch runs five times as fast. Those are meaningless comparisons, but the point holds. This thing screams. More useful are the comparisons to Apple’s latest MacBook Pros: Microsoft claims up to 70 percent more battery life, and double the performance of Apple’s laptops.

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The Impossible Dream of USB-C

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Marco Arment, a prominent developer best known for co-founding Tumblr, explains things that are still crippling USB-C, despite being around for years and being used in mainstream products. Arment writes: While a wide variety of USB-C dongles are available, most use the same handful of unreliable, mediocre chips inside. Some USB-A dongles make Wi-Fi drop on MacBook Pros. Some USB-A devices don’t work properly when adapted to USB-C, or only work in certain ports. Some devices only work when plugged directly into a laptop’s precious few USB-C ports, rather than any hubs or dongles. And reliable HDMI output seems nearly impossible in practice. Very few hubs exist to add more USB-C ports, so if you have more than a few peripherals, you can’t just replace all of their cables with USB-C versions. You’ll need a hub that provides multiple USB-A ports instead, and you’ll need to keep your USB-A cables for when you’re plugged into the hub — but also keep USB-C cables or dongles around for everything you might ever need to plug directly into the computer’s ports. Hubs with additional USB-C ports might pass Thunderbolt through to them, but usually don’t. Sometimes, they add a USB-C port that can only be used for power passthrough. Many hubs with power passthrough have lower wattage limits than a 13-inch or 15-inch laptop needs. Fortunately, USB-C is a great charging standard. Well, it’s more of a collection of standards. USB-C devices can charge via the slow old USB rates, but for higher-powered devices or faster charging, tha’s not enough current.

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Google Photos Now Recognizes Your Pets

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Today, Google is introducing an easier way to aggregate your pet photos in its Photos app — by allowing you to group all your pet’s photos in one place, right beside the people Google Photos organized using facial recognition. TechCrunch reports: This is an improvement over typing in “dog,” or another generalized term, because the app will now only group together photos of an individual pet together, instead of returning all photos you’ve captured with a “dog” in them. And like the face grouping feature, you can label the pet by name to more easily pull up their photos in the app, or create albums, movies or photo books using their pictures. In addition, Google Photos lets you type in an animal’s breed to search for photos of pets, and it lets you search for photos using the dog and cat emojis. The company also earlier this year introduced a feature that would create a mini-movie starring your pet, but you can opt to make one yourself by manually selecting photos then choosing from a half-dozen tracks to accompany the movie, says Google.

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Microsoft’s Fall Update With Redesigned Xbox Dashboard Is Now Available To All

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Microsoft has released the next big “Fall” update for the Xbox One, which focuses on speed and simplicity. Engadget reports: The first “Fluid Design” interface comes with a redesigned Home page, which is all about simplicity and customization. The top-level section has four shortcuts (your current game, two personalized suggestions, and a deal from the Microsoft store) and a horizontal carousel underneath. The biggest change, however, is the new “Content Blocks” that sit below this screen. Scroll down and you’ll find a series of large, visual panels dedicated to games and friends. These are completely customizable and act like miniature hubs for your favorite titles and communities. The quick-access Guide has been tweaked for speed, with small, horizontal tabs that you can slide between with the Xbox controller’s LB and RB bumpers, D-pad or left thumbstick. If you launch the Guide while you’re streaming or part of an active party, you’ll also see the corresponding broadcast and party tabs by default. Other Guide tweaks include a new Tournaments section in the Multiplayer tab, which will summarize any official, professional or community tournaments that you’ve entered. In addition, Microsoft has overhauled the Community tab with a modern, grid-based layout. It’s also tweaked the idle and screen dimming features that kick in when you walk away from the console momentarily. Larry Hryb, Xbox Live’s Major Nelson and Mike Ybarra, the Platform Engineer, have posted a walkthrough video on YouTube highlighting all the major new changes.

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Is the Chromebook the New Android Tablet?

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An anonymous reader shares a report from Computerworld, where JR Raphael makes the case for why it’s time to call the Chromebook the new Android tablet: What does a traditional Android tablet do that a convertible Chromebook doesn’t? No matter how long you mull, it’s tough to come up with much. Nowadays, a Chromebook runs the same apps from the same Google Play Store. It has an increasingly similar user interface, with a new touch-friendly and Android-reminiscent app launcher rolling out as we speak. It’s likely to have an Android-like way of getting around the system before long, too, not to mention native integration of the Google Assistant (which is launching with the newly announced Pixelbook and then presumably spreading to other devices from there). But on top of all of that, a Chromebook offers meaningful advantages a traditional Android tablet simply can’t match. It operates within the fast-booting, inherently secure, and free from manufacturer- or carrier-meddling Chrome OS environment. The operating system is updated every two to three weeks, directly by Google, for a minimum of five years. That’s a sharp contrast to the software realities we see on Android — and if you think the updates on Android phones are bad, let me tell you: The situation with Android tablets is worse.

In addition to the regular selection of Android apps, a Chromebook also gives you a desktop-caliber browser experience along with a laptop-level keyboard and capable trackpad. (And, as a side perk, that means you’ve got a built-in multi-mode stand for your tablet, too.) It’s the best of both worlds, as I’ve put it before — a whole new kind of platform-defying, all-purpose productivity and entertainment machine. And while it won’t immediately lead to the outright extinction of traditional Android tablets, it certainly makes them seem like a watered-down and obsolete version of the same basic experience.

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Amazon Finally Makes a Waterproof Kindle

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After 10 years of Kindles, Amazon has finally made a kindle e-reader with an IPX8 waterproof rating. The new Kindle Oasis features a 7-inch display and aluminum back. The Verge reports: Unlike last year’s Kindle Oasis, which used a magnetic case you attached to the e-reader to extend its battery life, the new Oasis relies entirely on its built-in battery. It has a similar physical design, with one thicker side that tapers down on the other side, for one-handed reading. But Amazon has made a point of saying that it managed to fit in a bigger battery, while keeping the tapered side of the device at 3.4 millimeters. The resolution of the e-paper display is the same at 300 ppi, but it has a couple extra LED lights now for a brighter, more even-looking display. And it also has ambient light sensors that adjust the brightness as you move from room to room, or from outdoors to indoors. There are physical page-turn buttons, plus the touchscreen page-turn option; Amazon says it’s worked on both the hardware and software side of things to make page-turning feel faster. The new e-reader has been tested in two meters of water for up to 60 minutes. It’s also been tested in different water environments, like hot tubs, pools, and bubble baths.

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New Video Peeks ‘Inside the Head’ of Perl Creator Larry Wall

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“I was trained more as a linguist than a computer scientist,” says Perl creator Larry Wall, “and some people would say it shows.”
An anonymous reader describes Wall’s new video interview up on InfoQ:
“With a natural language, you learn it as you go,” Wall says. “You’re not expected to know the whole language at once. It’s okay to have dialects… Natural languages evolve over time, and they don’t have arbitrary limits. They naturally cover multiple paradigms. There are external influences on style… It has fractal dimensionality to it. Easy things should be easy, hard things should be possible. And, you know, if you get really good at it, you can even speak CompSci.”
Wall also touched on the long delay for the release of Perl 6. “In the year 2000, we said ‘Maybe it’s time to break backward compatibility, just once. Maybe we can afford to do that, get off the worse-is-worse cycle, crank the thing once for a worse-is-better cycle.” The development team received a whopping 361 suggestions — and was also influenced by Paul Graham’s essay on the 100-year language. “We put a lot of these ideas together and thought really hard, and came up with a whole bunch of principles in the last 15 years.” Among the pithy principles: “Give the user enough rope to shoot themselves in the foot, but hide the rope in the corner,” and “Encapsulate cleverness, then reuse the heck out of it..” But Wall emphasized the flexibility and multi-paradigm nature that they finally implemented in Perl 6. “The thing we really came up with was… There really is no one true language. Not even Perl 6, because Perl 6 itself is a braid of sublanguages — slangs for short — and they interact with each other, and you can modify each part of the braid…”
Wall even demoed a sigil-less style, and argued that Perl 6 was everything from “expressive” and “optimizable” to “gradually-typed” and “concurrency aware,” while supporting multiple virtual machines. He also notes that Perl 6 borrows powerful features from other languages, including Haskell (lazy evaluation) Smalltalk (traits), Go (promises and channels), and C# (functional reactive programming). And towards the end of the interview Wall remembers how the original release of Perl was considered by some as a violation of the Unix philosophy of doing one thing and doing it well. “I was already on my rebellious slide into changing the world at that point.”

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Anticipating Samsung’s AMOLED Mixed Reality Headset

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Eloking quotes Windows Central:
At an event in San Francisco, HoloLens inventor Alex Kipman outlined the future of Windows Mixed Reality, which Redmond seems to believe is the future of computing. Whether or not it is remains to be seen, but either way, there will be no shortage of Windows Mixed Reality headsets this holiday season, with perhaps the most compelling option coming from Samsung.

The $500 Samsung HMD Odyssey sports dual AMOLED eye displays, complete with a 110-degree field of view. This could potentially make a huge difference in the quality of the Windows Mixed Reality experience for two reasons. First, AMOLED displays can generate deeper blacks and more vibrant colors than your average OLED or LCD screen. Second, all other Windows Mixed Reality headsets we’ve seen have a 95-degree FoV. The Samsung headset will be more immersive because there will be less dead space in your peripheral vision.
The headset — which comes with motion controllers — is expected to launch in one month.

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Bluetooth Won’t Replace the Headphone Jack — Walled Gardens Will

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Last year, when it was rumoured that the then upcoming iPhone models — 7 and 7 Plus — won’t have the 3.5mm audio jack, The Verge’s Nilay Patel wrote that if Apple does do it, it would be a user-hostile and stupid move. When those iPhone models were official announced, they indeed didn’t have the audio jack. Earlier this week, Android-maker Google announced the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones that also don’t feature the decades-old audio jack either, a move that would likely push rest of the smartphone makers to adopt a similar change. The rationale behind killing the traditional headphones jack, both Apple and Google say, is to move to an improved technology: Bluetooth. But there is another motive at play here, it appears. Patel, writes for The Verge: As the headphone jack disappears, the obvious replacement isn’t another wire with a proprietary connector like Apple’s Lightning or the many incompatible and strange flavors of USB-C audio. It’s Bluetooth. And Bluetooth continues to suck, for a variety of reasons. Newer phones like the iPhone 8, Galaxy S8, and the Pixel 2 have Bluetooth 5, which promises to be better, but 1. There are literally no Bluetooth 5 headphones out yet, and 2. we have definitely heard that promise before. So we’ll see. To improve Bluetooth, platform vendors like Apple and Google are riffing on top of it, and that means they’re building custom solutions. And building custom solutions means they’re taking the opportunity to prioritize their own products, because that is a fair and rational thing for platform vendors to do. Unfortunately, what is fair and rational for platform vendors isn’t always great for markets, competition, or consumers. And at the end of this road, we will have taken a simple, universal thing that enabled a vibrant market with tons of options for every consumer, and turned it into yet another limited market defined by ecosystem lock-in. The playbook is simple: last year, Apple dropped the headphone jack and replaced it with its W1 system, which is basically a custom controller chip and software management layer for Bluetooth. The exemplary set of W1 headphones is, of course, AirPods, but Apple also owns Beats, and there are a few sets of W1 Beats headphones available as well. You can still use regular Bluetooth headphones with an iPhone, and you can use AirPods as regular Bluetooth headphones, but the combination iPhone / W1 experience is obviously superior to anything else on the market. […] Google’s version of this is the Pixel Buds, a set of over-ear neckbuds that serve as basic Bluetooth headphones but gain additional capabilities when used with certain phones. Seamless fast pairing? You need Android N or higher, which most Android phones don’t have.

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The Google Clips Camera Puts AI Behind the Lens

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The Verge’s Dieter Bohn reviews Google’s AI camera, dubbed “Clips,” which was announced alongside the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. Here’s an excerpt: You know what a digital camera is. It’s a lens and a sensor, with a display to see what you’re looking at, and a button to take the picture. Google Clips is a camera, but it only has some of those parts. There’s no display. There’s a shutter button, but it’s completely optional to use. Instead, it takes pictures for you, using machine learning to recognize and learn faces and look for interesting moments to record. I don’t know if parents — Google’s target market — will want it. I don’t know if Google can find a way to explain everything it is (and isn’t) to a broad enough audience to sell the thing in big numbers, especially at $249. I also don’t know what the release date will be, beyond that it will be “coming soon.” But I do know that it’s the most fascinating camera I’ve used in a very long time.

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Google Pixel Buds Are Wireless Earbuds That Translate Conversations In Real Time

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At its hardware event today, Google debuted new wireless earbuds, dubbed “Pixel Buds.” These are Google’s first wireless earbuds that give users access to Google Translate so they can have conversations with people who speak a different language. Ars Technica reports: Unlike Apple’s AirPods, the Pixel Buds have a wire connecting the two earpieces. However, that wire doesn’t connect to a smartphone or other device. Pixel Buds will pair via Bluetooth to the new Pixel smartphones — and presumably any other devices that accept Bluetooth wireless earbuds. All of the Pixel Buds’ controls are built in to the right earpiece, which is a common hardware solution on wireless earbuds. You can access Google Assistant by tapping or pressing on the right earbud, and the Assistant will be able to read notifications and messages to you through the Buds. But the most intriguing feature of the Pixel Buds is the integrated Google Translate feature. Demoed on stage at Google’s event today, this feature lets two Pixel Bud wearers chat in their native languages by translating conversations in real time. In the demo, a native English speaker and a native Swedish speaker had a conversation with each other, both using their native languages. Google Translate translated the languages for each user. There was barely any lag time in between the speaker saying a phrase and the Buds’ hearing those words and translating them into the appropriate language. The Pixel Buds will use Google Translate to comprehend conversations in 40 different languages. Some other features include a 5-hour battery life, and a charging case that can hold up to 24 hours of battery life. They’re available for preorder today for $159.

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Google Debuts Its $400 Google Home Max Speaker To Rival Apple’s HomePod

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In addition to the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, Google debuted a $400 speaker, called Home Max, that looks to compete directly with Apple’s recently announced HomePod. The Home Max is a larger Google Home that features stereo speakers and more premium looks and materials. It’s expected to go on sale in December in the U.S. TechCrunch reports: It can tune its audio to its own space, analyzing the sound coming from the speaker using its built in microphones to determine the best equalizer settings. This is called Smart Sound, and it evolves over time and based on where you move the speaker, using built-in machine learning. It has Cast functionality, as well as input via stereo 3.5 mm jack. Home Max can output sound that’s up to 20 times more powerful than the standard version of Home, Google says, and it has two 4.5 inch woofers on board with two 0.7 inch custom-built tuners. It can sit in either vertical or horizontal orientation, and it comes in both ‘chalk’ and ‘charcoal.’ Of course, this bigger speaker also includes a noise isolating array that makes it work even in open rooms with background noise, and it’s Assistant-enabled, so you can use it to control your music playback via voice, or manage your smart home devices, set yourself reminders, alarms, and timers and much more. Google also launched a budget-friendly Google Home Mini that features the Google Assistant but in a smaller form factor. 9to5Google reports: Google touts the Home Mini as having a powerful speaker with “crisp” 360 degree sound. The Mini can also be connected to any Chromecast wireless speaker, but there is no 3.5mm jack like Amazon’s Echo Dot. In the center, there are four white lights that note when the Home Mini is listening or responding. Besides saying the “Ok, Google” hotword, users can tap on the Home Mini to issue a command. Google also retained the Home’s original button for disabling the microphone with a toggle next to the charging port. The Google Home Mini will be go on sale later this month for $49, with pre-orders starting today.

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Google Unveils Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL With No Headphone Jack

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From a report: Google product chief Mario Queiroz today unveiled two new Android 8.1 Oreo smartphones at the company’s annual hardware event: the Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL. The smaller Pixel 2 sports a 5-inch, 1080p display, with a 16:9 aspect ratio that was until this year the standard on Android flagships. The larger Pixel 2 XL, meanwhile, has a 6-inch, QHD+ display in an 18:9 aspect ratio, in line with 2017’s flagship smartphones. The Pixel 2 thus still has a large bezel while the Pixel XL 2 has a noticeably reduced bezel profile, although certainly not the smallest we’ve seen. As always, smartphone size also dictates battery capacity: 2700 mAh for the Pixel 2 and 3520 mAh for the Pixel 2 XL. Here’s the rundown: Snapdragon 835 chipset, 4GB of RAM, either 64GB or 128GB of storage, an 8-megapixel front-facing camera, a 12-megapixel rear camera, front stereo speakers, a fingerprint scanner on the back, a USB-C port on the bottom, and no headphone jack. “Use your existing analog headphones with the included adapter,” Queiroz said. […] The HTC-manufactured Pixel 2 will be available in Just Black, Clearly White, and Kinda Blue on October 19. The LG-manufactured Pixel 2 XL will ship in Just Black and Black & White on November 15. The Pixel 2 will be available for $649 (64GB) and $749 (128GB) while the Pixel 2 XL will come in $849 (64GB) and $949 (128GB) flavors.

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Google Is Latest Company To Ditch Headphone Jack In Its Newest Smartphones

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When launching its original Pixel smartphone, Google mocked the iPhone 7’s missing headphone jack in its marketing material. According to Cult of Mac, Google won’t be doing the same for the Pixel 2. “The company has decided to remove the aging port from its latest handsets,” reports Cult of Mac. “A new leak reveals that the lineup will rely solely on USB-C for wired connectivity.” From the report: Incredibly reliable leaker Evan Blass has published pictures and details of Google’s upcoming Pixel 2 smartphones on VentureBeat. He has also confirmed that neither device will feature a headphone jack, which means users will have to rely on a USB-C adapter or Bluetooth. It also means Google will no longer be able to put out Pixel ads that take sly swipes at the iPhone’s missing port. Blass says both Pixel handsets will be powered by a Snapdragon 835 chipset — the same one found in the Galaxy S8, the LG V30, and other 2017 flagships — not a faster Snapdragon 836 processor as originally planned. Other features are said to include 12-megapixel cameras, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB or 128GB storage options. The smaller Pixel will pack a 5-inch 1080p display with a 16:9, while its larger sibling will pack a 6-inch Quad HD display with an 18:9 aspect ratio. Is the lack of a headphone jack a deal-breaker, or do you think the Pixel’s other features, like stock Android and front-facing stereo speakers, will make up for it?

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Why Google Needs Gadgets

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Google will tomorrow launch the next generation of its smartphone with the Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL. At the same time, the company will reportedly introduce a new Chrome OS-based laptop called the Pixelbook, a small smart speaker called the Google Home Mini, and new hardware for the Daydream VR platform. David Pierce, writing for Wired tries to make sense of it: You’d think having dominated search and email, created Chrome and YouTube, plus a self-driving car project, a handful of save-the-world enterprises, and the greatest advertising business in the history of the universe would be enough to keep Google busy. You certainly wouldn’t think the folks in Mountain View would suddenly feel the urge to get into the smartphone game, a remarkably mature market where nobody but Samsung and Apple makes any money, and where Google’s already ubiquitous thanks to Android. […] As they say, hardware is hard. It’s a ruthless and low-margin business, but it’s also an important one. Building gadgets in-house gives Google an opportunity to assert itself beyond what any of its partners can offer. More importantly, it gives Google a chance to control its destiny in an increasingly uncertain time. Depending on Samsung is a dangerous game. Galaxy products are the most popular Android phones by far, and the prime iPhone competition. But every year, you can feel Samsung leaning a little further away from Google. It built the Bixby assistant, which competes directly with Google Assistant, and gave Bixby prime placement on its phones. Samsung builds its own browser, email client, and messaging app, which seem utterly redundant unless Samsung’s trying to wean its reliance on Google products. Samsung mostly eschews Daydream in favor of Gear VR, and has a home-grown smart-home platform competing directly with Nest, Android Things, and all the other Google connected-home products.

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Meet The Next Major Operating System: Amazon’s Alexa

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ZDNet’s editor-in-chief warns that Amazon has ambitious plans for its new Echo Plus:
Amazon is making an explicit play to be the home hub because it can automatically discover and set up lights, locks, plugs, and switches without the need for additional hubs or apps. And the Alexa ‘routines’ feature will be able to tie all of this together by allowing you to automate a series of actions with a single voice command: saying “Alexa, good night,” and having it turn off the lights, lock the door, and turn off the TV, for example. A platform that other apps and devices can connect into? This starts to sound a lot like an operating system for the home to me.
It’s not just the home, either; Amazon announced a deal to make Alexa available in BMW and Mini vehicles from the middle of next year, allowing drivers to use the digital assistant to get directions, play music or control smart home devices while travelling, without having to use a separate app. Travellers will also have access to Alexa skills from third-party developers like Starbucks, allowing them to order their coffee while driving and thus skip the line. Back in January, Amazon and Ford said they were working together to allow voice commands to turn on the engine, lock or unlock the doors as well as play music and use other skills…
It’s still early days but I think Alexa has a good shot at becoming one of the standard interfaces, certainly for consumers — an operating system for the home, if not more, if the automotive tie-ups take off too. All of this will make Amazon a serious force to be reckoned with. Windows has the desktop, and Android and iOS can fight it out for the smartphone, but right now Alexa has a lock on the smart home.

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Microsoft Releases ‘Next Generation’ Preview of Skype For Linux

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BrianFagioli writes: Friday, Microsoft released a refreshed preview of Skype for Linux. There are both DEB and RPM packages available, making it easy to install on, say, Ubuntu, Debian, or Fedora. In fact, I successfully installed it on Pop!_OS earlier today. Believe it or not, the new interface is quite nice, making it something I could possibly enjoy using on my Linux machine. “Great news for Skype for Linux users — the next generation of Skype for Linux is launching!” says The Skype Team. “Starting today, you can download Skype Preview for Linux and start enjoying new features across all your devices — including screen sharing and group chat. With Skype for Linux, you can take advantage of the screen sharing feature on your desktop screen. Now, you can share content with everyone on the call — making it even easier to bring your calls to life and collaborate on projects.”

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