Showing posts with label Tech. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tech. Show all posts

Saturday, August 24, 2019

This wireless charging pad might do two-thirds of what AirPower promised

Image: Zens

It’s been nearly five months since one of the all-time great Friday news dumps: On March 29th, Apple abruptly canceled the AirPower wireless charging mat that would supposedly be able to charge your iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods simultaneously no matter where you placed them. But wireless charging firm Zens is betting it can do some of what Apple couldn’t by introducing the Zens Liberty.

Zens claims the Liberty uses a set of 16 overlapping wireless charging coils to let you charge your Qi-compatible devices from any spot on the mat — just like AirPower was supposed to, though AirPower was rumored to have 21 to 24 coils. The Zens Liberty can charge two devices at once, unlike AirPower’s planned three, but it charges each at 15 watts, faster than most wireless chargers. Your Apple Watch may not work, by the way: none of Zens’ promotional materials show it on the charger.

 Image: iFixit
Patent filings show what Apple’s AirPower charger might have looked like inside.

We also don’t know if the Zens Liberty’s multi-coil design overcomes the engineering challenges that were rumored to have sunk AirPower, including overheating and possibly emitting signals more powerful than US or EU regulations would have allowed. If Apple couldn’t figure it out, I’m pretty skeptical Zens managed to do so.

If you’re willing to roll the dice on such a new product, though, Zens says the Zens Liberty will be available in two flavors this November: a $139.99 “Kvadrat edition,” which has a nice-looking fabric on top of the aluminum mat, and a $179.99 limited glass edition, which replaces the fabric with a pane of glass that lets you see the mat’s charging coils underneath.

 Image: Zens

For an AirPower alternative that’s available now, we recommend the Hard Cider Labs SliceCharge Pro, which, though it only has six charging coils, can charge two devices on the mat as well as an Apple Watch via an integrated watch charger.

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How to stream Xbox One games on your Windows PC

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Microsoft’s Xbox One consoles and Windows 10 PCs play pretty well together. So well, in fact, that you can stream Xbox One games onto your PC.

Why would you want to do this? Perhaps because you prefer your monitor to your TV. Or maybe your Xbox One is on the other side of the house, and you just want to wirelessly stream to your PC instead of buying a 50-foot HDMI cable to physically link the two together.

There is a catch: unlike PlayStation 4’s Remote Play and PS Now, two features that let you stream from anywhere, the Xbox One console and PC need to be on the same network. Still, it’s a pretty cool trick. There are only a few simple steps that you need to get through in order to get your console’s feed sent to your PC.

Use the Xbox Console Companion app

  • If you have a Windows 10 desktop or laptop, it likely already has the Xbox Console Companion app installed. (This was formerly known as the Xbox app; Microsoft is in the process of transforming it into a more fleshed-out gaming dashboard). You can download the app from the Microsoft Store if it’s not already on your PC.
  • Open the app, then sign into your Microsoft account (which is also your Xbox account) when it prompts you to do so.
  • Once you’re signed in, click the menu button at the top left-hand side of the Xbox Console Companion app window. It will open a list of items. Click “Connection” near the bottom of that list.
  • Click “Add a device” in the top-middle section of the app window. The app will search for an Xbox One console in your network. Click “Connect” once you find your console.
  • If your console doesn’t show up, enter its IP address in the appropriate field. Your Xbox One’s IP address can be found by opening up the settings menu on the console, then clicking “Network” > “Network settings” > “Advanced Settings.”
  • After you’re connected, your console will show up under the “Now Playing” section in the Xbox Console Companion app. Click it and your PC monitor will show a direct feed from your Xbox One.

Fix lag on a wireless network

As you play on your PC, there may be some lag depending on your Wi-Fi network speeds. One way to speed up a choppy stream is to use Ethernet instead, if that’s an option. You can also use the Xbox Console Companion app to tweak the fidelity of the stream, resulting in a faster-moving picture, although at the expense of image quality.

  • To access the drop-down menu, hit the menu button on the top-right part of the display, near the full-screen button.
  • If you want to look at the granular details of the stream, like bit rate, bandwidth use, and more, click the button that appears near the bottom left part of the screen.

I don’t use the Xbox Console Companion app on my PC too often, but it comes in handy when I want to play Xbox at the same time that others prefer to watch something else on the TV. It’s particularly useful for slow-paced games where the speed of your inputs doesn’t come into play, but I found it to be sufficient for games like Asura’s Wrath, which relies on quickly completing events to make progress.

Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.

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FAA asks public not to attach guns, bombs, or flamethrowers to drones

Image: FAA

The Federal Aviation Administration would like you to know that drones and weapons are “a dangerous mix.” The government agency sent out a notice on Thursday “warning” the public “that it is illegal to operate a drone with a dangerous weapon attached.” A dangerous weapon is broadly defined as “any item that is used for, or is readily capable of, causing death or serious bodily injury.”

“Perhaps you’ve seen online photos and videos of drones with attached guns, bombs, fireworks, flamethrowers, and other dangerous items,” the FAA writes, nailing us to the wall. “Do not consider attaching any items such as these to a drone because operating a drone with such an item may result in significant harm to a person and to your bank account.”

The agency helpfully reminds everyone in the notice that operating a drone that’s wielding a dangerous weapon is a violation of Section 363 of the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act, which can result in fines of up to $25,000 for each violation — unless, the FAA says, the drone operator receives “specific authorization from the Administrator of the FAA to conduct the operation.” (By the way, if you know of any of these approved flights, please don’t hesitate to let me know.) Other state and federal laws restricting the use of weapons could also apply to these dangerous drone flights, the FAA adds.

People in the US certainly have been strapping weapons to their commercial drones since the technology took off a few years ago, including one particular hobbyist from Connecticut who’s run the gamut from pistols to flamethrowers. There’s been a legal tug-of-war around weaponless drones across the last few years as well. It’s not often that the government chimes in with an official notice accompanied by boomer meme-style graphics like the one seen above. (Then again, it is the FAA’s 61st birthday today, so that part seems appropriate.) Safe flying, everyone.

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Disney+ will give subscribers four simultaneous streams and free 4K

Image: Disney

Disney’s upcoming Disney+ streaming service is shaping up to be quite the deal. According to CNET, the service will launch on November 12th with support for four simultaneous streams and 4K included, all for the base price of $6.99 a month. Subscribers will also be able to create and manage up to seven profiles on a single account.

That will make it highly competitive with Netflix, which raised its prices earlier this year and has in place stricter limitations on simultaneous streams. Netflix now costs $9 a month for a standard definition plan with only one available stream. If you want HD streaming, you need to pay $13 a month, and that gets you two simultaneous streams. For 4K and four simultaneous streams, it’s $16 a month. (The company also recently bumped prices in the UK.)

Netflix’s price changes have been so dramatic, in fact, that CEO Reed Hastings blamed the hike for its dip in US subscribers last quarter, the first drop in domestic Netflix users since 2011. The setback slowed Netflix’s overall growth and caused its stock to tumble, too.

Disney is making its upcoming streaming service highly competitive with Netflix

Notably, Disney’s ESPN and Hulu bundle for Disney+ won’t have the same simultaneous streaming benefits. With the bundle, which will cost $12.99, subscribers will only get two simultaneous ESPN+ streams and one basic, ad-supported Hulu stream.

Of course, Netflix has much more robust library than Disney+ right now, but Disney is filling out its upcoming platform with a number of original shows. The streaming limitation and 4K news, which was disclosed during interviews at Disney’s D23 Expo, joins a flurry of new announcements regarding shows and films coming to Disney+ later this year. CNET also reports that Disney will be releasing new episodes of original series on Disney+ weekly, as opposed to all at once like Netflix, a strategy that will likely help it extend the lifespan of its earlier slate of programming while it plays catch up to competitors.

The company is bringing a Ms. Marvel series to its platform, as well as one centered on She Hulk and one on Moon Knight. Disney also today announced a live-action Lady in the Tramp adaptationthat will be exclusive to Disney+ and confirmed the much-anticipated Obi-Wan Kenobi original series starring Ewan McGregor.

Prior to D23, Disney has promised a number of other enticing Disney+ benefits, including numerous other Star Wars series like The Mandalorianand a seventh season of The Clone Wars; shows focused on popular Marvel characters Hawkeye, Falcon / the Winter Solider, and Loki; and streaming exclusivity for a number of upcoming high-profile films like Frozen 2 and the live-action The Little Mermaid.

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Major book publishers sue Amazon’s Audible over new speech-to-text feature

Illustrations by Alex Castro / The Verge

Some of the world’s largest book publishers have jointly filed a lawsuit against Amazon-owned audiobook company Audible today over a new, controversial speech-to-text feature the literary industry claims is a violation of copyright law.

The lawsuit, filed in the Southern District Court of New York, includes the Big Five: Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster. It also includes San Francisco-based publisher Chronicle Books and Scholastic, the major children’s publisher that owns publishing rights to Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. All seven plaintiffs are members of the Association of American Publishers.

“Audible’s actions are the kind of quintessential infringement that the Copyright Act directly forbids.”

Publishers are taking issue with Audible’s new Captions feature, first unveiled last month and set to go live in September through partnerships with US public schools. The feature uses machine learning to transcribe spoken words into written ones, so users can read along while they listen to an audiobook. The issue, however, is that Audible is doing this based on audiobook recordings, which have separate licenses to physical books and ebooks. The company is not apparently obtaining the necessary licenses to reproduce the written versions of these works.

Because Audible is relying on artificial intelligence, it appears the company is trying to claim a distinction between a newly created piece of text composed using AI, based on an audio recording, and the potentially near-identical text version of the book the audiobook was created from. (As evidence that the text is generated on the fly, Amazon says its transcriptions may contain errors and are not intended to be complete recereations of the text version of a book.) At the time of its launch, Audible CEO Don Katz positioned Captions as an educational feature designed for schools, telling USA Today, “We know from years and years of work, that parents and educators, in particular, understand that an audio experience of well-composed words is really important in developing learners.”

“Audible’s actions — taking copyrighted works and repurposing them for its own benefit without permission — are the kind of quintessential infringement that the Copyright Act directly forbids,” the complaint reads. “If Audible is not enjoined, Audible will take for itself a format of digital distribution it is not authorized to provide, devalue the market for cross-format products, and harm Publishers, authors, and the consumers who enjoy and rely on books.”

In a statement given to The Verge, Audible defended the development of Captions as an educational feature designed to help young kids and improve literacy, saying “it is not and was never intended to be a book.” An Audible spokesperson also pointed to an explanation of the Captions feature and an attached FAQ penned by Katz in late July, which details the differences between Captions and a proper ebook and the limitations posed on listeners. One key difference, Audible says, is not being able to flip through pages, as users must wait for each line of text to be progressively generated as they’re listening. Here is Audible’s statement in full:

We are surprised and disappointed by this action and any implication that we have not been speaking and working with publishers about this feature, which has not yet launched. Captions was developed because we, like so many leading educators and parents, want to help kids who are not reading engage more through listening. This feature would allow such listeners to follow along with a few lines of machine-generated text as they listen to the audio performance. It is not and was never intended to be a book. We disagree with the claims that this violates any rights and look forward to working with publishers and members of the professional creative community to help them better understand the educational and accessibility benefits of this innovation.”

At the heart of the case will be a determination on the transformative nature of an AI-created audio transcription, and whether that constitutes a violation of the copyrights held on a written work.

“This is one of many lawsuits that will help define the future of intellectual property rights in the digital age. It raises major questions over what impact artificial intelligence, when it interacts with copyrighted material, will have on intellectual property rights,” Sam P. Israel, a copyright attorney and founder of Sam P. Israel P.C., told The Verge over email. “Ultimately, unauthorized reproductions of copyrighted material, even when done unwittingly through the assistance of AI, will likely not pass muster in the courts.”

The case happens to have a strong analog to a former Amazon publishing controversy a decade ago, when the company tried to launch a text-to-speech feature for its Kindle platform that would effectively do what Amazon Captions does today, but in reverse.

Publishers at the time were enraged, accusing Amazon of trying to trample on the nascent audiobook market and the licensing rights that publishers believed would help it become a thriving business. Amazon eventually caved in that regard, allowing publishers to disable the Kindle text-to-speech feature after a massive outcry from the US Authors Guild.

“There is a simple English word to describe this: and that is theft.”

Publishers and the Authors Guild have been putting up a similar fight for the last month. After the feature was announced, the Authors Guild released a statement saying “existing ACX and Audible agreements do not grant Audible the right to create text versions of audio books.” The group said the feature “appears to be outright, willful copyright infringement, and it will inevitably lead to fewer ebook sales and lower royalties for authors for both their traditionally published and self-published books.”

Audible has been mostly quiet about the matter, telling The Verge last month that it did “not agree with this interpretation” from the Authors Guild, but the company formally declined to comment further. Audible also refused to comment about whether it would work with publishers on establishing some form of licensing that would allow the Audible Captions feature to exist while also fairly compensating rights holders.

In a new statement, the Authors Guild expressed support for the lawsuit. “Without authorization and in violation of its contracts with publishers, Audible added a text feature to its audiobooks. Text and audio are different book markets, and Audible is licensed only for audio,” writes Mary Rasenberger, the executive director of the Authors Guild.” It has chosen to use its market power to force publishers’ hands by proceeding without permission in clear violation of copyright in the titles.”

In an interesting twist, some of the books for which Audible has added Captions support are written by Authors Guild President Doug Preston, who was not pleased. “My contract is crystal clear that the only rights conveyed to Audible are for voice recording and playback. The rights to reproduce text in any way are specifically withheld,” Preston said in a statement. “I can’t believe that Audible has so little respect for authors, contractual promises, and copyright that it thinks it can just help itself to rights it doesn’t have, by fiat. There is a simple English word to describe this: and that is theft.”

Update August 23rd, 2:40PM ET: Added statements from the Authors Guild.

Update August 23rd, 5:33PM ET: Added statement from Audible.

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The best wireless earbuds to buy in 2019

True wireless earbuds from Beats, Sony, and others overcame the downsides of older models this year

We’re firmly entrenched in the era of true wireless earbuds. Sure, there are still people who prefer traditional Bluetooth earbuds with a wire between them; they’re harder to lose and can last longer on a charge, the argument goes. It’s a fair point, but it hasn’t been enough to keep many of us from eliminating any and all tethers. Walk around any city, and AirPods, Jabra Elite 65ts, and Galaxy Buds are impossible to miss.

Over the last year, we’ve seen new wireless earbuds making significant leaps in battery life and connection reliability. The days of intermittent music cutouts are pretty much over.

Trying to land on a singular best pick for wireless earbuds is a little impractical. If you own many Apple devices and AirPods fit you well, there’s your answer. Similarly, Samsung customers might lean toward the Galaxy Buds for their deeper level of integration with Galaxy smartphones. Or maybe your biggest deciding factor is budget. Yes, the products listed below are on the expensive side, but stay tuned because I plan to take a closer look at wireless earbuds under $100 for a similar roundup.

Note that there are some earbuds that I’ve left out here (including the Bose SoundSport Free) because their manufacturers have already announced plans for updated models soon.

Best wireless earbuds: Beats Powerbeats Pro
 Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

The Powerbeats Pro take many of the best things about AirPods and improve upon key pillars like sound quality, battery life, and fit. They can keep playing for up to nine hours of continuous listening, have easy-to-use physical buttons on each earbud (including volume controls), and offer a much richer music output with a wider soundstage and pleasing balance between treble, mids, and bass. Yes, there’s an extra kick for the latter, but the Powerbeats Pro work great for all music genres and deserve to be used everywhere — not just when you’re sweating in the gym.

The ear hooks provide a stable fit, and you’ll hear much less — but still some — outside noise when wearing the Powerbeats Pro. You’re always aware of your surroundings, but not to the point where it can prove annoying and force you to crank the volume, as can be the case with AirPods.

Their biggest downside is their bulky charging case (necessary because of those ear hooks) that’s cumbersome compared to pretty much everything else on the market. It also omits any kind of wireless charging. It’s not something that you’ll want in your pocket, which might seem like a potential deal-breaker. But with their marathon battery life, you can leave home without the case for a good chunk of the day and keep jamming along — or just toss the case in your bag. At $250, they aren’t remotely close to cheap, but the best things rarely are.

The cheaper default (if they fit): Apple AirPods 2
 Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Apple’s second-generation AirPods don’t make any significant upgrades to sound quality, and their design is exactly the same as the originals. So if they didn’t fit in your ears then, they won’t now.

But there are small additions that you’ll come to appreciate: wireless charging, hands-free “Hey Siri” voice commands, longer battery life on calls, and faster switching between and connecting to devices. There’s a reason AirPods have become so ubiquitous in recent years, and it’s not just because of the brand that makes them. They’re dependable, dead simple to use, and the sound quality has proven to be good enough to satisfy millions of buyers.

Best if you already have workout headphones: Sony WF-1000XM3
 Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

Noise cancellation will be the next major selling point for true wireless earbuds. Apple is rumored to be preparing noise-canceling AirPods for 2020, but Sony’s 1000XM3 earbuds are here right now with impressive noise cancellation, great sound, and an effective ambient mode that lets you hear surrounding noise when necessary.

But the M3s lack water and sweat resistance, which is a sacrifice that’s hard to overlook when you’re spending $230. Sony’s continued refusal to let them pair with two devices at once also remains a point of frustration. Lastly, the M3s have been having some issues when used with Windows PCs, a situation that the company will fix with an upcoming firmware update.

After a couple of mediocre earlier attempts, Sony came back and almost nailed it the third time out. As its competitors race to come up with noise-canceling earbuds over the coming year, Sony only needs to address a few shortfalls, and it’ll be close to earbud perfection.

Best sound: Sennheiser True Momentum Wireless
 Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

In our review, we described the Sennheiser True Momentum Wireless earbuds as having “the best, purest sound of any true wireless buds yet.” That remains true today. They’re a joy for the ears, but Sennheiser’s extremely premium ($300) earbuds are foiled by a tendency to quickly drain when in their charging case.

Owners have been reporting the problem for months, and it has yet to be fully resolved by Sennheiser. As such, since the charging case and reliable standby time are critical for true wireless earbuds, I can’t recommend that you buy them.

Other contenders

The field of true wireless earbuds is larger than ever before, with high-end audiophile options, others aimed at runners, and many that aim to strike the “good enough” balance.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the Jaybird Vistas. Whereas the company’s previous Run earbuds were a disappointment, this time, Jaybird has come basically full circle and delivered a product with very few faults. They fit snugly and have a nice small profile, their charging case is wonderfully efficient and portable, and they offer extensive EQ controls for customizing sound to your liking.

Some might be turned off by the fact that the Vistas only support the basic Bluetooth SBC codec and not even AAC, but they’re tuned well enough that I don’t notice any obvious quality degradation. To me, they sound very similar to the Jabra Elite 65ts — only in a more modern package. The biggest downside is that the Vistas lack any kind of ambient passthrough mode, which might turn off those of you who do most of your running outdoors.

They’ve been the go-to alternative to AirPods for years, but Jabra’s Elite 65t are getting a little long in the tooth to buy at this point, unless you find a great deal on them. (They’re on sale often these days, at least.) A refresh is almost certainly due sometime over the coming months — USB-C, please — and not everyone finds them comfortable to wear. But since the start, they’ve nailed the basics of a reliable connection, decent-enough sound performance, and satisfactory battery life. And Jabra has continually added new software features, including Amazon Alexa and extras like white noise and nature sounds for when you need to concentrate.

Samsung’s Galaxy Buds have a discreet design and can last a long time on a charge, but their audio quality is fairly average, and they’re awful for phone calls. As a throw-in preorder bonus with Samsung’s phones, there’s very little to complain about. But if you’re thinking of buying them standalone at their normal price, well, that’s a harder decision to justify.

Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.

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Friday, August 23, 2019

Amazon is reportedly listing thousands of unsafe or banned products

Photo by Natt Garun / The Verge

Amazon is reportedly selling thousands of products that are mislabeled, banned, or declared unsafe by federal agencies, according to an investigation from The Wall Street Journal. It found that no fewer than 4,152 items fitting those criteria were freely available to buy on Amazon’s storefront.

The list of mislabeled, banned, and unsafe products found by the Journal is shocking, including “FDA-approved” products that the agency never vetted, medication that lacked child safety warnings, banned sleeping wedges for babies, illegally imported prescription drugs, electronics that falsely claim UL-certified safety ratings, toys with unsafe amounts of lead or potential choking hazards, and more. Many of the products found had the company’s Amazon Choice label, which isn’t something you should automatically put any trust in. Perhaps worst of all, the investigation found at least 157 items that Amazon said it explicitly banned.

Third-party sellers aren’t Amazon, even if they look like it

The issue here is Amazon’s massive network of third-party sellers that sell freely on Amazon and even ship from the company’s warehouses if they participate in the “Fulfilled by Amazon” program. Product pages for third-party sellers can be hard to tell apart from “Sold by” items. A small line of text is the only thing that indicates who the actual seller is.

But there’s a big difference between buying from Amazon and buying from someplace else through Amazon. Namely, Amazon doesn’t take legal responsibility for unsafe products because it’s technically not the one selling it. Any disputes have to be taken up with the third-party seller.

It didn’t use to be this way, but as marketplace sellers have exploded onto the scene through Amazon, the company’s moderation of those listings (done by a combination of human workers and machine learning flags) simply hasn’t been able to keep up with the sheer volume of products. Barring a major shift in policy on Amazon’s end, it seems that customers will continue to be on their own when it comes to making smart purchases from the online retail giant, especially where third-party sellers are concerned. The Journal’s Joanna Stern has some suggestions on how you can avoid unsafe or other iffy purchases.

Amazon has since responded to the WSJ’s investigation with a blog post, where the company shared more information about how it approves third-party sellers and the tools it uses to try and weed out problematic listings. Per the post, “We invest significant resources to protect our customers and have built robust programs designed to ensure products offered for sale in our store are safe and compliant.”

Update August 23rd, 3:25pm: Added statement from Amazon regarding preventative measures for problematic products.

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Toyota going all-out with electric vehicles for the 2020 Olympics

The Olympics and Paralympics are coming to Tokyo next year, and official fleet provider Toyota is planning a massive deployment of battery-electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles.

The automaker says it will provide “3,700 mobility products and/or vehicles” for the Olympics, 90 percent of which will be “electrified.” That can mean either battery-electric, hydrogen-powered, or even gas-electric hybrid. Of the 3,700 vehicles, 850 will be battery-electric and 500 will be fuel-cell electric.

3,700 “mobility products and/or vehicles”

The vehicles come in all shapes and sizes: cars, buses, shuttles, scooters, mopeds... you name it. Toyota sees the Olympics as its big chance to showcase its lineup of experimental and alternative fuel-powered machines, and it’s not going to squander it.

Obviously, Toyota’s top talking point is the reduction of carbon emissions. According to the company’s press materials:

Out of the approx. 3,700 mobility products and/or vehicles for Tokyo 2020, 2,700 vehicles will be part of the official fleet providing transportation support between venues during the Olympic Games. These will be commercially-available vehicles, such as Mirai, etc. Preliminary calculations suggest that the CO2 emitted by the commercially-available fleet for Tokyo 2020 will average less than 80 g/km*1, resulting in a reduction by approx. half of the typical amount when compared to a similar sized fleet of mostly conventional gasoline and diesel models.

[...] As such, Toyota aims to achieve the lowest emissions target level of any official fleet used at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Toyota, of course, was a pioneer in the field of alternative fuels, with the release of the hybrid Prius in 1997. But since then it has lagged behind in the race to release premium and mass-market electric vehicles, having been overtaken by Tesla, GM, Nissan, and others. The automaker has said it will release six new EVs starting in 2020 and stretching through to 2025, making the Olympics a grand stage from which to launch that lineup.

Toyota, of course, was a pioneer in the field of alternative fuels

In addition, Toyota plans on rolling out two of its previously unveiled (and weirder-looking) concept vehicles: the e-Palette and the Concept-i. When it was revealed at CES in 2018, I described the e-Palettes as “weird, see-through self-driving boxes roaming through cities, delivering people, packages, and pizza.”

Toyota envisions these e-Palettes serving a variety of functions, from typical mobility services like ride-sharing and carpooling, to less typical purposes like serving as mobile office and retail space, medical clinics, hotel rooms, and more. But at the Olympics, the e-Palettes will “support transportation needs of staff and athletes, with a dozen or more running on a continuous loop within the Olympic and Paralympic Village.” Toyota claims the vehicles will be “Level 4” autonomous, meaning they won’t require a human driver, but will be confined to a specific geographic area.

The Concept-i (first revealed during CES 2017) will take center stage for Toyota as the operating vehicle in the torch relay and the lead car in the marathon. It will serve as both a platform for Toyota to show off its work with artificial intelligence, courtesy of the in-vehicle AI assistant “Yui,” and its work in highly automated driving.

And of course there will be scooters of all stripes and sizes. Toyota plans to roll out 300 standing electric scooters, as well as an unspecified number of “sitting-type and wheelchair-link personal mobility devices.”

Most of these vehicles are inefficient in transporting vast numbers of people compared to public transportation modes like subways, trains, and buses. Tokyo is reportedly struggling to secure enough buses to meet the demand of the Olympic games, with the organizing committee anticipating needing at most 2,000 buses a day for the arenas around the city, and at least twice that number of drivers. So far, organizers have only produced 6,400 buses from the surrounding area, forcing the committee to expand its search.

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Epoch Times banned from advertising after sneaking pro-Trump propaganda onto Facebook

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Facebook has banned conservative news site The Epoch Times from buying ads after it was discovered that the site was trying to avoid the company’s rules for transparency around political advertisements, according to a report from NBC News.

The Epoch Times previously spent $2 million on Facebook ads supporting President Trump and amplifying conspiracy theories, which is more than any other organization, save for the Trump campaign itself. After journalist Judd Legum noted back in July that many of The Epoch Times’ ads were in violation of Facebook’s policies, the outlet’s accounts were banned.

Epoch Times previously spent $2 million on Facebook ads supporting Trump

But it simply shifted strategies, creating sock puppet pages to run the ads instead. By not disclosing that The Epoch Times was behind the new ads, the company was again in violation of Facebook’s rules, resulting in the latest ban.

“Over the past year we removed accounts associated with the Epoch Times for violating our ad policies, including trying to get around our review systems,” a Facebook spokesperson commented to NBC News. “We acted on additional accounts today and they are no longer able to advertise with us.”

As an earlier NBC Newsreport found, The Epoch Times is actually associated with Falun Gong, a Chinese religious group that seeks to tear down the Chinese government (the same group that runs the unavoidable Shen Yun dance troupe). The group apparently believes that Trump’s policies are key to that goal. In addition to supporting Trump through millions of dollars of problematic Facebook ads, the outlet also promotes QAnon-related conspiracy theories, anti-vaccination propaganda, and other extreme content.

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OnePlus says its TV will have a 55-inch QLED panel

OnePlus is continuing the dripfeed of information about its upcoming TV, following news of its September release date and the revelation that it’ll be called the OnePlus TV. Now we know the first technical details of the product, courtesy of a tweet from OnePlus India: it uses a 55-inch QLED panel.

Previous filings have suggested Android-based models of between 43 and 75 inches in size, with the 43-inch variant seemingly also bound for India. This announcement doesn’t necessarily rule any of that out, but it does at least confirm that India is getting a 55-inch version. The 75-inch model is likely to come to the US and China.

QLED is Samsung’s marketing term for quantum-dot LED screen technology — it’s nothing like OLED, despite the similar name. QLED panels still rely on LED backlighting, unlike OLED where each individual pixel emits its own light, so the image quality of a QLED TV is largely dependent on how effective the backlighting solution is. For example, the number of local dimming zones is critical for HDR performance.

In other words, we still can’t say much about the OnePlus TV until we see it for ourselves. But that’s the case with any TV, really, and that time won’t be so far off.

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If you attack a robot, it might photograph you in the act

Image: Knightscope

Humans haven’t quite reached a WALL-E-like society where robots care for our every possible need, but we do have a few roving security robots that can monitor places like banks, casinos, malls, and hospitals so human security guards can catch a break. Some people don’t seem to like the new robot cops: earlier this month in Hayward, California, a security robot captured video of an alleged attacker shortly before he bowled it over.

Here’s a video from Knightscope, which makes the robot that was attacked:

If you recognize this person, the Hayward Police Department could use a hand.

Knocking over one of these robots isn’t something you’d likely do by accident — Knightscope says it weighs 398 lbs. But most people shouldn’t worry about running into them at all, for now. Knightscope tells The Verge that there are only about 75 Knightscope robots deployed in 15 US states right now, and a report at Vox suggests these types of bots won’t replace security guards anytime soon: Slack has two robots from Cobalt to help secure its offices, but still employs the same three night guards it did before it got the robots.

The bots help on-duty guards with minor tasks like scanning a doorway, but humans still need to intervene if a robot detects something out of the ordinary, and robots from both Knightscope and Cobalt don’t have weapons, so they can’t use any force. So tackling one of these robots is a bit of a cheap shot.

Knightscope says the robot that was attacked has made a “speedy recovery.” Let’s just hope it can stay away from toddlers and fountains.

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HP has a new CEO

Image: HP

HP Inc. has announced that CEO Dion Weisler will be stepping down “due to a family health matter” and will be succeeded by Enrique Lores, who is currently president of HP’s printer division. Lores will officially begin as CEO on November 1st, according to the press release. HP says Weisler will be a director on the company’s board until the next annual stockholder meeting, which should be in April 2020.

Weisler has been CEO since 2015, when HP split into two parts: a PC and printer business known as HP Inc., led by Weisler, and an enterprise services business called HPE, led by former HP CEO Meg Whitman until she stepped down in 2015. She has since co-founded short video platform Quibi.

Lores has been at HP for 30 years and started at the company as an engineering intern, according to the press release. In 2018, he was part of a team that showed us a zero-gravity printer designed for the International Space Station.

The news was announced in tandem with the company’s Q3 earnings. The company’s stock is down 6 percent after hours.

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YouTube disabled 210 accounts for spreading disinformation about Hong Kong protests

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Google just published a blog post revealing that it has disabled 210 YouTube channels that the company says “behaved in a coordinated manner while uploading videos related to the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.” Google cites the behavior as being “consistent with recent observations and actions related to China announced by Facebook and Twitter.” The accounts were disabled earlier this week.

Both Facebook and Twitter recently uncovered and suspended accounts that the social media companies believe were operated by the Chinese government and designed to seed doubt about and undermine the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. Twitter suspended nearly 1,000 accounts tied to China, and Facebook removed various pages, groups, and accounts linked to the effort to spread information opposing the protests.

“We found use of VPNs and other methods to disguise the origin of these accounts and other activity commonly associated with coordinated influence operations,” Shane Huntley, from Google’s Threat Analysis Group, wrote in the blog post. “These actions are part of our continuing efforts to protect the integrity of our platforms and the security and privacy of our users.”

Google also used the opportunity to address moves it recently took to counter the government of Kazakhstan, which recently forced citizens to install a security certificate that gave the government broad power to spy on internet activity and “decrypt and read anything a user types or posts, including intercepting their account information and passwords.”

“These actions are part of our continuing efforts to protect the integrity of our platforms and the security and privacy of our users,” said Huntley, adding that Google’s teams “will continue to identify bad actors, terminate their accounts, and share relevant information with law enforcement and others in the industry.”

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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Satechi’s new USB-C hubs support 4K at 60Hz, at the expense of two USB-C ports

Satechi is releasing two new USB-C hubs. First, the good news: both have two HDMI ports instead of one, and are able to connect to two 4K displays at once. That’s cool, and also addresses our main issue with the previous model by supporting 4K resolution at 60Hz instead of being capped at 30Hz.

Now for the sort-of bad news: these are exclusive to MacBooks, MacBook Airs, MacBook Pros, and Mac mini desktops that have a dual USB-C port arrangement. And, as you can see in the image above, they’re going to eat up both of those ports. In other words, these hubs feast on power, ports, and your disappointment that they won’t work with the iPad Pro or any other device that normally supports USB-C hubs.

Let’s focus first on its new Dual Multimedia Adapter (shown above). It’s the successor to Satechi’s current model, our favorite USB-C hub. In this newer model, one of the HDMI ports is capable of 4K at 60Hz, while the other is capped at 4K at 30Hz. We are down to two USB 3.0 ports instead of three, since Satechi replaced one with an HDMI port, but you otherwise have the same variety of ports here, including a USB-C PD 60W port, microSD and SD card slots, and an Ethernet port. This model costs $109.99, and it’s available from Amazon and Satechi’s site.

Do you want to have two 4K monitors displaying at 60Hz? You’ll want to turn to Satechi’s new Dual HDMI Adapter. It’s $64.99, and features a USB-C PD 60W port and two HDMI ports that let your 4K displays run at a respectable refresh rate. This model won’t be out until mid-September, but the product page is up on Amazon and Satechi’s store.

Satechi is hosting a discount for a limited time that takes 20 percent off of either model from either retailer. Enter the offer code DUALDISPLAY at checkout until September 3rd to save some money.

Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.

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TCL’s recent patent filing shows off two familiar foldable phones

Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

TCL’s foldable phones appear in a series of recently published patents, which were first picked up by Mobile Kopen(viaLetsGoDigital). These patents contain renders that outline, in pretty thorough detail, TCL’s take on a Galaxy Fold-esque device as well as a clamshell design that mimics a flip phone, with a large, seamless display once it’s opened up.

This isn’t the first time that TCL’s foldable phones have made a blip on our radar. As you can see in the video above, we got as close as TCL would allow to some working prototypes of its 7.2-inch device at MWC 2019. These renders seem to match up with what was on display, down to the vertical camera module that features three camera lenses.

 Image: Mobiel Kopen

The company made a big deal of its DragonHinge at its prototype showing, comprised of gears and built to flex the screen in a tactile, reassuring manner. Vlad Savov, formerly of The Verge, had a chance to try it out behind closed doors, and he was impressed by it.

The hinge creates a noticeable gap between the two sides of the folded display, and the patent filing makes it tough to see if TCL has made progress in slimming that down to something more pocket-friendly, like the Galaxy Fold. But having a gap might be a shortcut for getting a device like this to store shelves without similar snags.

 Image: Mobiel Kopen

TCL’s clamshell foldable phone makes an appearance in our first-look at its upcoming devices but in a non-working condition. One of the patents appears to show more angles to this phone, including what it will look like when it’s opened. And it looks a lot like a regular smartphone.

 Photo by Evan Blass

There aren’t many other details in either patent, but leaker Evan Blass posted an image that appears to detail TCL’s product road map. In it, the company’s big foldable phone is given a name — Flextab — which might be coming out in late 2020.

TCL told us that it’s aiming to release a more affordable foldable phone, unlike the nearly $2,000 price tag that Samsung will charge in September when its Galaxy Fold relaunches. It’s sitting at €1,299, which converts to about $1,441. That’s cheaper, sure, but perhaps it’s not cheap enough to convince people to opt for TCL, which is a trusted name in TVs, not phones. There’s still no word on when the clamshell model might release.

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You can now sign up for the Minecraft Earth beta on Android

Microsoft first opened up its Minecraft Earth beta to compatible iOS devices last month, and now it’s heading to Android. The software maker is accepting sign-ups for the Android version, and you’ll need an augmented reality (AR-capable) handset running Android 7 or above. Naturally, the more modern and powerful your phone is, the better this AR game will run.

Minecraft Earth is a new AR game that’s similar to Pok√©mon Go.Microsoft has spent months building the new game with its Mojang development studio. Players will be able to collect materials and build giant Minecraft structures with friends. Microsoft’s goal is to cover the world in Minecraft blocks.

Beta gameplay is rather limited right now to collecting resources and crafting, but Microsoft is planning to add adventure modes where you’ll be able to interact with other players at designated Minecraft areas. You can use build plates to sit a Minecraft build down on a table and build something with friends or family. Every piece of material that someone else uses on your own plate will then be part of your build, so it’s a collaborative effort to create giant structures that can then be displayed through a phone’s camera.

Microsoft is just testing out the basics right now before the game expands. If you’re interested in playing on Android, you can sign up over on the Minecraft Earth beta site. It should be available on devices next week.

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Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10 preorder bonuses end later today

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10 will release tomorrow, August 23rd. Our review just went live, and if you already preordered, there’s a decent chance that you may have already received your new phone. But if you’re still thinking about taking the plunge, there’s a really good reason why you should do so today: it’s the last day to get a bunch of preorder incentives with the purchase of a Note 10.

The good news is that you can get these deals no matter where you buy the phone — just so long as you do it today. If you want to buy the phone unlocked, you can do so through Samsung. Otherwise, I’ve listed everywhere else you can buy the Note 10 here, and it includes any and all special offers happening at popular retailers and through carriers.

The first part of the deal applies to those who have a phone to trade. Samsung is offering up to $600 in trade-in credit for your current phone toward the Note 10, assuming it’s one of the following devices, and it’s in good condition. (You’ll still get credit for a lesser phone, just not as much):

  • Samsung Galaxy S10 E, S10, S10 Plus
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 9
  • iPhone X, XR, or XS
  • Google Pixel 3 or Pixel 3 XL

Additionally, buying the Note 10 today will get you a $100 Samsung gift card that can be used on anything from its online store. You’ll get a $150 gift card if you buy the Note 10 Plus or Note 10 Plus 5G.

You’ll have to register your phone after it arrives through the Shop Samsung app on Android or iOS to get the gift card. In the app, sign in with your Samsung account, then tap the tab called “offers” in the app. Click the “preorder & get more” window, then tap “See if I’m eligible” and proceed with registering your phone there.

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Verizon just announced a partnership with Boingo to solve its biggest 5G problem

Verizon’s 5G service is ultra fast, but due to the nature of the mmWave technology it’s using, service from traditional outdoor cell towers tends to vanish indoors. Today, the carrier announced its plan to solve that: a partnership with Boingo Wireless (best known for providing Wi-Fi in a number of airports around the world) to get 5G to work better indoors.

According to the announcement, Verizon plans to leverage Boingo’s experience with “distributed antenna systems (DAS), small cells and Wi-Fi” to expand its 5G service indoors and to public spaces like airports, stadiums, hotels, and more. To that end, the two companies are apparently working on a “hyper-dense network” for those indoor spaces, although that’s all the detail Verizon’s offering at this time.

Is this any different than offering branded Wi-Fi where it can offload 5G? It sounds a bit like “5G-branded” Wi-Fi to me. But even if details are slim, it’s good to see that Verizon is working to solve the indoor 5G issue. And Boingo’s experience in getting Wi-Fi across massive airport terminals seems like it could help achieve that.

In related 5G news, Verizon has announced that it’s rolling out its service to parts of Phoenix starting on August 23rd, making it the 10th 5G city for the carrier. (It joins Washington DC, Atlanta, Detroit, Indianapolis, Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, Providence, and St. Paul.) That said, expect 5G coverage in Phoenix to be limited to just a few popular areas of the city, rather than the broader area that the LTE network reaches.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus review: should you spend for the stylus?

The most phone

How much would you pay to have a stylus in your phone?

That’s the essential question for the Note 10 Plus. It wasn’t always this way: the Note line has meant a few different things over its eight-year history. It was the first phone that convinced us that big screens were great, the phone that proved there was a market for a super powerful Android phone, and (of course) the phone that had to be recalled because its battery lit on fire.

Save for the stylus, all of those things (except, thankfully, the battery thing) no longer differentiate the Note. There are plenty of big, powerful Android phones. They mostly cost hundreds less than the $1,100 starting price of the Note 10 Plus. Samsung sells the Galaxy S10 Plus, which is nigh indistinguishable from the Note 10 Plus to the average person.

Unless you count that stylus.

The Note 10 Plus does a million things, some of which manage to rise above the level of the typical Samsung gimmick. It is a big, beautiful, powerful, well-made phone. You can take all of that for granted, which is an achievement in and of itself. But this year, there’s so much competition in the Android world that the only thing that should drive your purchase decision is the little metal stick sitting inside of it.

So let’s start with the S Pen.

It probably seems weird to the uninitiated, but Note people know: using a stylus on your phone is great. You get a greater degree of precision with all sorts of tasks and a few extra features that aren’t possible without it. But it also just feels different — and often better — to jot on the screen rather than tap on it. Especially on something as large as the Note 10 Plus, it’s handy to write out a quick note on the lock screen.

The S Pen itself is nothing special. There’s still a little clicker cap to fiddle with and a single button for some functions, it still charges inside the phone’s silo, and it still does basic tilt detection when you use it to draw on the screen.

This year, the new additions are an accelerometer and a gyroscope. Samsung uses those along with Bluetooth to turn the S Pen into a kind of magic wand to control your phone. By waving around the stylus in the air, you can make stuff happen on your phone. I got it to work from as far as 15 feet away.

It’s neat, but it’s also mostly a gimmick — at least for now. It only works with a few apps, like the camera or Spotify. To use it, hold your finger down on the button and give it a little flick or spin. In the camera, you can switch modes, take a photo, or zoom in. In Spotify, you can adjust the volume or switch tracks. Samsung says more apps could add support, thanks to a new SDK, but we’ll have to see if that actually happens. In the meantime, it’s a fun trick to show to your nerdiest friends and not much more.

The upgrade for the S Pen that really matters isn’t on the stylus itself; it’s in Samsung’s software on the phone: optical character recognition (OCR) is finally integrated into Samsung Notes, the app that powers the screen-off memo feature that automatically launches when you pull the S Pen out of its silo. That means you can search for the quick notes you’ve jotted down, extract the text from it to copy elsewhere, convert it directly into text within the note, or even (hilariously) export it into a Word document.

OCR isn’t a new thing on Android phones. It’s possible to do all of the above inside the free Google Keep app or even by taking a screenshot and opening it with Google Lens. But integrating OCR into Samsung Notes removes all of those extra steps.

The other place where the S Pen really shines in Samsung’s software is in its new built-in video editing tool. It makes it easy to chain clips together and add very basic transitions, effects, backing music, and edits. Unlike Adobe Rush or iMovie on the iPhone, the interface is dead simple and intuitive.

Video editing is way easier when you have the precise controls the stylus gives you. For example, it’s easier to cut exactly where you want to. The control buttons also don’t need to be extra large to accommodate your big fingers, so it’s easier to see everything you need on one screen. For quick stuff, it’s great. I was able to string three clips together, trim each of them, and have a working video in just a minute or two. You wouldn’t want to do much more than that on a phone, anyway.

The Note 10 Plus also has an “AR Doodle” feature, which technically doesn’t require the stylus but is way more fun with it. It has two modes: the first recognizes faces and lets you draw directly on them; when you record a video, the little mustaches and horns move with your subject. But the “Everywhere” mode is much more impressive. It lets you sketch stuff in real space, and those things stay pinned in space quite well. It’s a little like Google’s Tiltbrush AR / VR app, but it’s shrunk down on a phone.

Both of these AR Doodle effects are a blast to play with, but they are also basically gimmicks. After running around the office and showing off the reality-distorting water creatures that I drew to my co-workers, everybody agreed it was neat. But nobody said, “Oh, I need this.” Unlike the OCR in Samsung Notes, you’ll probably stop using AR Doodle after a week or two.

The S Pen is the Note 10’s most important feature

The S Pen does a million other things that are all selectable from the menu that pops up when you pull it out. It can magnify stuff the screen, it can reduce an app to a little thumbnail that pins itself to your screen until you hover over it to glance at it, and it’s still the best way to create and edit a screenshot on a phone.

At this point, you’re either giddy with excitement over this little stick, or you’re shrugging. That’s fair. I do think the stylus is the only important reason to pick the Note 10 Plus over the Galaxy S10 Plus or some other big Android phone. And how much you’re into it is an entirely personal decision.

I wrote earlier that you could take the fact that the Note 10 Plus is a good, well-made phone for granted. That’s true. But I want to underline that what you’re taking for granted is that the Note 10 Plus has the nicest phone hardware you can get. There are other phones that come close — some from Apple, some from Samsung — but the Note 10 Plus is just a little nicer in addition to being a little bigger.

It starts, as it always does, with the screen. It has a 6.8-inch AMOLED display, but because Samsung is so good at making it go very nearly edge to edge, it fits in a body that’s about the same size as last year’s Note 9, which had a smaller 6.3-inch display. There’s a hole-punch cutout for the selfie camera, but it’s small, centered at the top, and way less distracting and intrusive than any notch.

The screen is big, bright, color-accurate, and beautiful. About the only superlative you can’t use is that it doesn’t offer the 90Hz refresh rate you can get on the OnePlus 7 Pro or other gaming phones. But I never missed that, and it’s likely you won’t either. This screen and this phone look like the future in a way even the iPhone hasn’t managed in a long time.

The phone comes with a factory-applied screen protector out of the box. It’s plastic and fine, but it probably won’t last as long as something you buy and apply yourself. And yes: it is safe to remove it without damaging the phone.

Left to right: Samsung Note 10 Plus, Note 10, Galaxy S10
Left to right: Samsung Note 10 Plus, Note 10, Galaxy S10. (Click to enlarge.)
Left to right: OnePlus 7 Pro, Galaxy S10 Plus, Galaxy Note 10 Plus
Left to right: OnePlus 7 Pro, Galaxy S10 Plus, Galaxy Note 10 Plus. (Click to enlarge.)

Samsung is also selling a smaller Note 10 for $949, which is about the size of a Galaxy S10 with a 6.3-inch screen. It lacks the super high-resolution screen, big battery, expandable storage, and extra RAM that make the Note 10 Plus a spec monster, but I suspect most people wouldn’t miss any of that. If you prefer a smaller phone and want a stylus, it’s an intriguing option. Unfortunately, it’s also an option I haven’t had a chance to review yet — so expect more on that after I’ve used it.

Samsung offers the Note 10 Plus in a few colors, but the one you’re seeing in this review is called “aura glow.” Even if you aren’t into that kind of bling, you will find that the Note 10 Plus is well-made, like a designer handbag or a nice watch.

I keep thinking of it as a luxury object, something that’s just slightly better in its fit and finish, but in a way that’s basically unnecessary. Like other luxury objects, it’s a little ostentatious and costs more than it ought to because you’re paying for the brand and the idea of having it in the first place.

Along with the stylus and the big screen, the other thing the Note line has always stood for is the best specs. That’s true here, too: the Note 10 Plus has a fast Snapdragon 855 processor, 12GB of RAM, a 4,300mAh battery, and plenty of (expandable) storage. The $1,100 model comes with 256GB, or you can pay $100 more for 512GB.

Many big Android phones have nearly equivalent specs for less money

But top-flight specs don’t set apart the Note line anymore. Pretty much any Android phone that costs over $650 — and many that cost less — has the same processor and can offer the same basic performance.

The Note 10 Plus also fails to differentiate itself in another way: it’s the first Samsung flagship to lose the headphone jack. Samsung says it did that to make room for more battery. And sure, battery life has been great for me. But also :(

The camera setup on the Note 10 Plus is virtually unchanged from what Samsung offers on the Galaxy S10 lineup: three lenses on the back and a single selfie camera. Their quality is virtually unchanged, too, which is to say I’m generally impressed.

This is the part of every smartphone review where we all say that the Pixel 3 is still slightly better, at least when you blow up the photos and analyze them. That is true (doubly true in difficult lighting conditions where the Note 10 Plus can’t hold up to Google’s computational photography chops).

But it also doesn’t matter to me as much as it used to. The Note 10 Plus’ photos might be 10 or 20 percent worse than the Pixel’s, but both (and the iPhone) still don’t match what you can get out of a high-end point-and-shoot or mirrorless standalone camera. If you are happy with your phone and want great photos, spend your thousand bucks on a great camera.

It also matters less because the Note 10 Plus’ photos are generally great and — here’s the important part — more fun to shoot. I love switching between the ultrawide and the telephoto. Samsung’s camera app is actually reliable (unlike the Pixel’s), and it manages to cram in a ton of modes without becoming completely overwhelming. To my astonishment, I love the Note’s “Food” mode, which adds some blur and saturation to any macro shot.

The Note 10 Plus also handily beats the Pixel 3 when it comes to video quality (though it still can’t quite hold up to the iPhone XS). Samsung added a few new features to its video app this time around. There’s Live Focus for adding background blur (or weird glitch effects) behind your subject. It is not good. There’s slightly improved video stabilization, but it’s not up to the level of what you can get out of a GoPro or a standalone gimbal.

Next, there’s the “Zoom-in Mic” feature. It uses three microphones to detect where sound is coming from, so when you zoom in on video, it makes the sound from your subject louder and dampens the sound from elsewhere. It does work, but the effect is super subtle.

Finally, the Note 10 Plus has a depth sensor and comes with a built-in app that can measure the size of objects — sometimes automatically. Sometime in the future, Samsung will release an app that lets you create rough 3D scans of objects to use in your own AR videos. I don’t think any of that is bad, but I also don’t think you’ll use any of it very often.

Recently, I praised Samsung for getting its act together and adding a little more elegance and clarity to its software, One UI. Unfortunately, with the Note 10 Plus, Samsung is reverting to the norm. Though the phone is still relatively easy to navigate, the number and breadth of software features piled on here are starting to feel scattershot and gimmicky again.

Sadly, the biggest example of Samsung’s software problems is DeX, the feature I was most interested in. Until now, DeX let you plug your phone into a monitor to give a desktop interface for your phone’s apps. With the Note 10 Plus, Samsung is offering apps for both Windows and Mac, so you can interact with your phone right from your laptop.

The DeX apps are a disappointment

I was intrigued because most people don’t carry around monitors, so being able to use DeX with the machine you actually do own could be great. Getting files between Android phones and computers has always been a hassle, but DeX promised direct drag and drop between operating systems. Plus, it would give you desktop access to all of the texting apps on your phone.

The problem is that Samsung’s desktop DeX apps are bad. Getting DeX to work on a Mac was a fiasco. Even when it worked, it was slow and couldn’t easily transfer multiple files. The situation was slightly better on Windows, but not by much.

The next example of Samsung’s “more is more” approach to software is its partnership with Microsoft. Microsoft makes solid Android apps now, and they’re bundled on the Note 10 Plus — alongside support for the Your Phone app on Windows (which, by the way, is not solid).

That’s all well and good, but it also means that the problem of duplicate apps has gotten worse. There are now three email apps preinstalled on the Note: Gmail, Samsung email, and Outlook.

Of course, I can’t mention software without mentioning that Samsung still does a terrible job of getting major Android operating system updates pushed out to its phones. It does manage to get security updates out in a timely manner, but if you care about having Android Q within six months (or more) of its release, look elsewhere.

There’s so much stuff in the Note 10 Plus that it can be dizzying. Samsung’s software just barely manages to contain it all and stay comprehensible. It really does have everything (except a headphone jack). I like some of it and I hate some of it, but none of it is a reason to either buy or skip this phone.

The S Pen works like a wand, but it’s not magic

The specs, massive screen, and design combine to make the Note 10 Plus a smartphone that goes to 11 for $1,100. But — again — there are Android phones and even Samsung phones that cost hundreds of dollars less and get you nearly there. The OnePlus 7 Pro is amazing, the Pixel 4 is only a couple of months away, and the Galaxy S10 Plus is not all that different from the Note.

Every one of those phones is a more sensible purchase than the Note 10 Plus. But none of them are anywhere near as nice to hold, look at, or use. I love how luxurious the Note 10 Plus’ hardware is, but I can’t say that’s a good reason to buy this phone, either.

That means, for most people, it really does come down to the S Pen stylus. It may work like a wand, but it’s not so magical that I think non-stylus people will be enchanted enough to spend hundreds of dollars extra to get the Note 10 Plus.

Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.

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Bose’s new Portable Home Speaker offers Google Assistant, Alexa, and AirPlay 2

Image: Bose

Bose just announced a surprise product: the Portable Home Speaker, a $349 speaker with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth that supports Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, AirPlay 2, and Spotify Connect.

The new speaker looks a lot like a next-generation version of the company’s SoundLink Revolve+ from 2017, with a similar conical design for 360-degree sound output and an integrated carrying handle. The added Wi-Fi connectivity adds a whole host of new services that should make the Portable Home Speaker far more versatile than just working as a Bluetooth device.

 Image: Bose

The Portable Home Speaker is about 7.5 inches tall, four inches wide, and it weighs 2.3 pounds. It has an aluminum enclosure that’s rated with IPX4 water resistance (good enough for the occasional splash or rain shower). It charges over USB-C or with an optional $29 charging cradle that’s sold separately.

Bose is also promising some smart connectivity features with its app: using it, you’ll be able to link up a multiroom sound system with other Bose smart speakers. Later this year, the company is also promising an Ultimate Ears-style setup that will let users pair the Portable Home Speaker with older products like Micro, Color, Mini, and Revolve. Next year, it’ll offer stereo pairing for two Portable Home Speakers.

 Image: Bose

Of course, it’s hard to look at the Portable Home Speaker without thinking of the recently leaked Sonos Move, the first Bluetooth speaker from Sonos that will offer nearly identical features to Bose’s option, with Alexa, Google Assistant, Bluetooth, and AirPlay 2, down to the USB-C and charging dock options for power. With Sonos set to announce the Move at an event next week, it feels like Bose is trying to beat its competitor to the punch by announcing the Portable Home Speaker first.

The Bose Portable Home Speaker will be available on September 19th for $349 in black or silver.

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