Biometric security: your next password could be your face, eyes or even the way you walk

WHAT if you could stroll through a building’s lobby to be identified and gain access?

And what if your bank would let you gaze at your smartphone to unlock a payment?

Both are possible using advanced biometric authentication technology that is now being tested and even rolled out to an increasing number of smartphones, tablet computers, laptops, and smartwatches.

And new research shows the transition from passwords, or “something you know,” to fingerprint, face, and eyeball scans, or “something you are,” could be complete within two years for phones, with other devices to follow in 2020.

In the last 24 hours, there has been talk that Apple may even ditch its Touch ID system on its iPhones and replace it with Face ID.

According to an investors note sent by KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, he says it’s now likely that all 2018 iPhone models will move to Face ID and leave Touch ID behind.

While Apple has been facing manufacturing difficulties with 3D sensing, Kuo says Face ID will help Apple “capitalise on its clear lead in 3D sensing design and production for smartphones.”

But, as Apple readies to launch its first face-scanner this month, do security experts consider this technology more secure or just more convenient?

Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing at Apple, Philip Schiller, introduces the iPhone X. Picture: AFP

Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing at Apple, Philip Schiller, introduces the iPhone X. Picture: AFPSource:AFP

Biometric security has been creeping into everyday technology for years, slowly replacing passwords and lengthy PIN codes.

Apple introduced its fingerprint scanner to phones in 2013, for example, while Microsoft unveiled facial recognition for its Surface computers in 2015.

The technology is evolving, however, and becoming both more common and more advanced.

Dissatisfied with the security of a fingerprint lock, Samsung introduced an iris scanner with its Galaxy S8 smartphone that photographs the coloured parts of your eyes and identifies up to 200 features in each eyeball to authenticate your identity.

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Galaxy S8 and Note 8 users can use this technology to unlock their phone and even to authenticate bank transfers or credit card payments.

Apple will also upgrade the biometric security in its top smartphone within a fortnight, introducing Face ID to the iPhone X as a replacement for its fingerprint scanner.

READ MORE: Hands on with Apple’s iPhone X

The facial recognition system uses a host of front-facing sensors, including a flood illuminator, dot projector, and infra-red camera, to project over 30,000 invisible points on to the user’s face and create a 3D model of their appearance.

It’s similar technology to that used in the Xbox Kinect, though Apple also uses a neural engine in the phone’s processor to determine whether the person looking at the phone is someone new or whether the user has just grown a beard, added spectacles, or changed hairstyles.

Samsung Electronics' Galaxy Note 8 has biometric technology. Picture: AP

Samsung Electronics’ Galaxy Note 8 has biometric technology. Picture: APSource:AP

Apple worldwide marketing vice-president Phil Schiller says there is “no perfect system, not even biometric-wise” for locking phones, but the new face-scanning technology would be significantly more secure.

“The data for (the iPhone’s fingerprint scanner) Touch ID has been one in 50,000, meaning that the chance that a random person could use their fingerprint to unlock your iPhone has been one in 50,000 and it’s been great,” he says.

“What are the similar statistics for Face ID? One in a million.”

The spread of biometric security features is also expected to accelerate over the next three years.

Acuity Market Intelligence predicts all smartphones will feature some form of biometric technology by 2019 and, by 2020, it will also feature in all laptops, tablets, and smartwatches.

Facial recognition could spread to online services too, with Facebook revealing it was testing the technology to confirm user’s identities.

Biometric technology could involve more than just face or fingerprint scans in future, though.

Internet giant Google has experimented with mapping speech patterns to identify users, and the CSIRO has developed technology that identifies people by the way they walk.

 

The prototype technology, which requires users to wear a device backed with motion sensors, was tested on 20 subjects earlier this year with an accuracy of 95 per cent.

CSIRO Data 61 networks research group leader Professor Dali Kaafar says the unique authentication system is “convenient because as we walk around each day our gait can be sampled continuously” and it’s also “more secure than passwords because the way we talk is difficult to mimic”.

“Since (it) keeps authenticating the user continuously, it collects a significant amount of information about our movements, making it difficult to imitate or hack unlike guessing passwords or PIN codes,” he says.

DEVICES WITH BIOMETRIC SECURITY

Face scanners: Apple iPhone X, Microsoft Surface Pro, HP Spectre x2, Alienware 15.

Eye scanners: Samsung Galaxy S8, Samsung Galaxy Note 8.

Fingerprint scanners: Google Pixel 2, LG G3, Huawei P10 Plus, Sony Xperia XZ Premium.

Wacky wearable technology: from breast pumps to beer testers, the newest gadgets are unusual

FROM testing your blood alcohol limit during a big night out to cooling you down on a summer’s day, wearable technology is getting more advanced, more useful, and seriously wacky.

The technology now features in everything from the cuffs of denim jackets to portable breast pumps, and even hides inside rose gold jewellery.

And the latest innovations are likely to find an audience willing to wear them as Australians continue to embrace wearable tech in record numbers, according to industry analysts.

The Proof wristband from Milo Sensors tests alcohol molecules in your skin to detect your level of sobriety. Picture: Supplied

The Proof wristband from Milo Sensors tests alcohol molecules in your skin to detect your level of sobriety. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied

Research firm IDC recently found wearable technology had jumped in popularity again this year, with consumers buying 26.3 million devices between April and June, up more than 10 per cent.

Telsyte managing director Foad Fadaghi said Australians were among the early adopters of wearable technology, from fitness trackers to smartwatches, and were likely to embrace next-generation devices, even if they initially seemed strange.

“As a society will we accept so many devices on us? Yes, I think we will, given we accept so many apps in our lives today,” Mr Fadaghi said.

“You can definitely expect more products that sit on a person, particularly if they can mesh into the background and not be obvious to everyone around.”

New wearable gadgets span the gamut from items that sit on your wrist to devices you slip in a bra.

The Proof wristband, for example, uses biometric sensors to detect alcohol molecules in your skin and can deliver notifications about your sobriety, or lack thereof, to your smartphone in real-time.

Milo Sensors chief executive Evan Strenk said the device, currently under development, would use disposable patches that worked for 12 hours at a time and would prove less “awkward” than pulling out a breathalyser at the pub.

The Embr Wave is a wearable device created by scientists from MIT that promises to cool or warm the wearer. Picture: Supplied

The Embr Wave is a wearable device created by scientists from MIT that promises to cool or warm the wearer. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied

Upright Technologies also launched two new wearable devices in Australia this week, with the Upright Go and Upright Pro designed to stick to the wearer’s back and vibrate when they detected poor posture.

The $150 and $200 devices can also be used to merely track slouching if alerts get too distracting.

Other new healthy wearable tech included a watch-like device from MIT scientists called Embr Wave that can directly cool or warm “the temperature-sensitive skin on your wrist,” a stylish and waterproof ring called Motiv that tracks exercise and sleep, and a smart, wearable breast pump system for nursing mothers called Willow that stores milk in modest, sealed bags and is now available to beta testers willing to pay $US480.

Mr Fadaghi said health gadgets were particularly popular with Australian consumers, as they often had a specific purpose and gave wearers more data about what they were already doing.

“When it comes to alcohol testers, for example, people are not going to wear a band because they want to wear a band, but they’ll wear it so they’re alerted not to drive a vehicle drunk,” he said.

Internet giant Google is also dipping a toe into the wearable tech field, announcing a Pixel Buds headset that can translate languages automatically, and releasing its smart denim jacket created with Levi’s this month.

The $US350 Commuter Trucker Jacket with Jacquard features a touch-sensitive area sewn into its sleeve that, when connected with a removable USB stick, can control your smartphone.

Are Samsung’s Smart TVs really spying on you?

 

Remember when Microsoft revealed Kinect would quietly listen to everything you said, causing the internet to erupt into furious, anti-Orwellian storm? Now it’s Samsung’s turn.

A passage from the company’s Smart TV privacy policy has been doing the rounds, revealing a small but concerning detail: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.”

The idea of our personal information being captured by any sort of technology should make anyone uncomfortable, but it’s that mention of a “third party” which is most disconcerting.

However, Samsung has tried to offer some reassurance. It told TechRadar it “does not retain voice data or sell it to third parties”.

“If a consumer consents and uses the voice recognition feature, voice data is provided to a third party during a requested voice command search. At that time, the voice data is sent to a server, which searches for the requested content then returns the desired content to the TV.”

Privacy party

It added: “Samsung takes consumer privacy very seriously. In all of our Smart TVs we employ industry-standard security safeguards and practices, including data encryption, to secure consumers’ personal information and prevent unauthorized collection or use.”

The company added that you’ll know if the voice recognition feature is active because a microphone icon will be present on the screen. Samsung also reminds us that the feature can be activated or deactivated by the user.

And of course, the TV owner can also disconnect the TV from the Wi-Fi network entirely, although that somewhat defeats the point of having a smart television.

That might help some people sleep more soundly at night, but as the Internet of Things starts to consume our daily lives, this certainly won’t be the last (or the worst) privacy scare.

Addicted to Tinder? Well then this gadget is perfect for you

If you are a Tinder addict then you know… swiping left and right can be tough on the fingers.

If you are a Tinder addict then you know… swiping left and right can be tough on the fingers.

Think about it, you got to hold your phone in one hand and then meticulously slide across every single photo with the other. I mean, it’s technically a workout.

Therefore a new invention has hit the scenes to eliminate all your swiping struggles… introducing the Tinda Finger.

Yep, Tinda Finger is basically a motorised finger that plugs into the charging port of your phone and with one little push, will swipe all available profiles for you without any assistance.

Working at 100 revolutions per minute, the Tinda Finger can clock up 6,000 swipes in an hour. With a turnover this high, it also means we can never EVER use the excuse “I wish someone would bring me on a date” again.

The Tinda Finger is still currently in the production phase with a rumoured online price of €15 once it hits the shelves, this is most definitely a solid investment.

Only downsides we can think of are:

1. What should I do when I swipe yes to people who turn into utter plagues?

2. Will swiping yes to this many people absolutely kill my battery?

3. What happens if I swipe yes to people in the office without knowing and they are like WTF

4. How will I afford the lifestyle of a serial dater?

5.  What happens if nobody swipes back?

6. How much does a cat cost?

I feel this product could do great on Dragons Den but until it’s created I suppose we have no choice but to keep swiping ‘old school’.

 

Panasonic promises its Google smart speaker will deliver high-quality sound

Image result for Panasonic promises its Google smart speaker will deliver high-quality soundWhen it comes to smart speakers, Panasonic is hoping users will remember the music and not just the assistant technology.

The company’s new SC-GA10 is a large, minimally designed smart speaker with Google Assistant inside that also boasts a powerful audio punch. Panasonic demonstrated the speaker at Berlin’s IFA trade show in two versions: both had a silver base and one had a black speaker while the other was white.

The speaker unit contains a bass speaker and two tweeters offset by about 90 degrees to each other to help fill a room with sound. The speakers can work on their own or be grouped together through a smartphone app for stereo or multi-room audio.

They respond to all the usual Google voice commands and are also compatible with Chromecast Audio. Users can also connect to one speaker via Bluetooth and have the audio replayed through multiple speakers.

The SC-GA10 smart speaker will be available in early 2018. Panasonic hasn’t disclosed the price.

iPhone X Face ID fail: A feature, not a bug

Image result for iPhone X Face ID fail: A feature, not a bug

When the moment of truth arrived at the Apple event on Tuesday, iPhone Xfailed. During the world premier of the device’s lauded Face ID biometric security system, it took Craig Federighi three times to get face ID to unlock his demo phone. But don’t worry, Apple says. That’s supposed to happen.

When Federighi began the iPhone X demo, he naturally started with a locked iPhone. “Unlocking it is as easy as looking at it and swiping up,” he said, hoping to magically unlock the phone to whoops and cheers from the audience like when Steve Jobs swiped to unlock the original iPhone. Except that didn’t happen.

On the first attempt, the phone didn’t respond. The second try produced the pin code screen with the message, “Your passcode is required to enable Face ID.” It wasn’t until the third attempt—after Federighi had to pick up a backup iPhone X and wipe some sweat from his brow—when the iPhone X finally unlocked.

Naturally, this blooper went viral on social media, as people began to question the accuracy of Apple’s new unlocking method. Well, apparently Apple has had enough of the ribbing, since it has responded with the following statement, as first reported by Yahoo’s David Pogue:

“People were handling the device for the stage demo ahead of time and didn’t realize Face ID was trying to authenticate their face. After failing a number of times, because they weren’t Craig [Federighi], the iPhone did what it was designed to do, which was to require his passcode.”

Apple also wants to alleviate our concerns about how Face ID will work when it’s not on a giant stage. In anemail reply to concerned customer Keith Krimbel, Federighi assured him that Face ID will be able to work when using dark sunglasses: “Most sunglasses let through enough IR light that Face ID can see your eyes even when the glasses appear to be opaque. It’s really amazing!”

Federighi also confirmed that Face ID will not unlock the phone if a user isn’t staring directly at the screen and shared this tidbit: “If you grip the buttons on both sides of the phone when [you] hand it over, it will temporarily disable Face ID.”

But the question remains whether Face ID will be as fast and foolproof as Apple claims. In our hands-on demo of the new feature, there were some quirks, but Apple still has some time to iron out the bugs before iPhone X starts shipping.

Face the music: Apple may have a tidy explanation for what happened here, but the damage is already done, and many people have already seen the headline, “FACE ID FAIL.” Granted, it’s unlikely to impact sales of the new $999 device too much, but still, Face ID is going to be a heavily scrutinized and criticized feature in the new iPhone X, so much so that Apple might regret not putting a fingerprint scanner on the back of the device. But hey, these things happen. It’s not like Steve didn’t have his share of keynote mishaps.

Galaxy Note8: Features, specs and everything else you need to know

galaxy note8 front 3

At long last, the Galaxy Note 8 is here. Whether you begrudgingly returned your Note 7 after the battery-related recall, or have just been counting the days until your Note 5 was eligible for an upgrade, the Galaxy Note 8 is ready to fill the phablet-sized hole in your life.

And based on our first impressions, it looks like the Note 8 was worth the wait. From its giant screen to its greatly improved camera, Samsung’s latest productivity handset is a tour de force, packing cutting-edge features inside an elegant, compact enclosure. Here’s everything you need to know about the newest phablet on the block.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • Galaxy Note 8 review
  • Galaxy Note 8 hands-on
  • Note8 specs
  • Note 8 price and release date
  • Note 8 display and design
SHOW MORE 

Galaxy Note 8 review

The Galaxy Note 8 is the best phone Samsung has ever made. It’s a massive leap over the Note7 and even manages to improve upon the impressive Galaxy S8. The price might be a little steep for some buyers, but if you don’t mind making an investment, the Note 8 will be an awesome phone for years to come. Read our full review to learn why we love it so much.

Galaxy Note 8 hands-on

Note8 specs

  • Display: 6.3″ Quad HD+ 2960 x 1440 Super AMOLED, 532ppi
  • Dimensions: 162.5 x 74.8 x 8.6 mm
  • Weight: 195g
  • Color: Midnight black, orchid gray in the U.S.; deepsea blue, maple gold internationally
  • Operating system: Samsung Experience based on Android 7.1.1 Nougat
  • CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (octo-core, 10nm, up to 2.45GHz)
  • GPU: Adreno 540
  • Rear camera: Dual 12MP telephone and wide angle,
  • Front camera: 8MP, f/1.7
  • RAM: 6GB/8GB LPDDR4
  • Storage: 64/128/256GB UFS 2.1 2-LANE
  • Ports: USB C, nano-SIM slot/microsSD, 3.5mm audio jack
  • Battery: 3,300 mAh

Note 8 price and release date

The Galaxy Note 8 is Samsung’s most expensive phone to date, clocking in at around $950—about $100 more than the Galaxy S8+. Preorders are already being accepted and the device will begin shipping on Friday, September 15. Samsung is selling the unlocked Note 8 for $930, and carrier pricing is as follows:

  • T-Mobile is charging $930 for a full-priced Galaxy Note 8, or you can put down $210 up front and spread the rest of the cost over 24 $30 monthly payments. Also, Jump On Demand customers will pay $39 a month with no down payment, for a cost of $936.
  • AT&T customers will pay $950 up front for a Note 8, or $31.67 for 30 months on an AT&T Next plan.
  • Verizon will be selling the phablet for $960, or $40 a month for 24 months.
  • Over at Sprint, the Note 8 will also cost $960. However, the carrier is offering the the device for zero down and $20 per month for 24 months ($480) with the Sprint Flex leasing plan for new customers.

Note 8 display and design

galaxy note8 holding

Michael Simon/IDG

The Galaxy Note 8 looks a lot like the Galaxy S8+ but there are subtle differences.

If you’ve used a Galaxy S8+, then you already have a pretty good idea of how the Note 8 looks. It features a 6.3-inch AMOLED display (up a fraction of an inch from the 6.2-inch S8+), and it features the same stunning Infinity Display design. The design takes most of its cues from the S8 as well, with thin bezels at the top and bottom and an all-glass enclosure. Flip it over and you’ll find a dual camera and a fingerprint sensor, still unfortunately positioned to the right of the camera. The corners of the device are slightly squarer than the S8+, but unless you compare them side by side, it’s very difficult to tell the two phones apart.

Note 8 performance, features, and storage

Samsung Note8Adam Patrick Murray/IDG
An S Pen slot, USB-C port, and headphone jack are all present on the Samsung Note 8.

The Note 8 is powered by the same Snapdragon 835 chip that’s inside the Galaxy S8. It does, however, have 6GB of RAM, an increase over the S8’s standard 4GB. As far as storage goes, the Note 8 comes with the same 64GB of internal storage as the S8 and keeps the microSD card slot as well for expansion up to 256GB. It also has IP68 water resistance, support for fast wireless charging, and a headphone jack.

Note 8 battery

After last year’s exploding batteries spurred a global recall, Samsung is playing it a little conservative with the Note 8. The handset features a 3,300m Ah battery, which is smaller than the S8+ and the Note 7, both of which sport 3,500 mAh batteries. Additionally, Samsung is running Note 8s through the same rigorous 8-point battery safety check that it implemented for the S8, and has established a partnership with UL to certify the Note 8 complies with the firm’s specific standards. All of which is to say, the Note 8 should be safe to take on an airplane.

Note 8 camera

Samsung Note8Adam Patrick Murray/IDG
The Note8 packs a dual camera with  optical image stabalization in both lenses.

Samsung has seriously upgraded the camera in the Note 8, adding a second lens on the back for its first dual-camera Galaxy phone. Both lenses have the same Dual Pixel 12MP sensor, but the main “wide” lens has an aperture of f/1.7 while the secondary telephoto lens offers 2X optical zoom but a slower f/2.4 aperture. Samsung has added optical image stabilization (OIS) to both lenses as well, a first for a smartphone (competitors only offer OIS on the main camera).

Check out our quick camera hands-on below:

MOBILE
Galaxy Note8 dual camera hands-on

As expected, an iPhone 7 Plus-like portrait mode is the key feature of the Note 8’s dual-camera system, but Samsung takes it a step further with Live Focus, a feature that uses both camera to create depth-of-field bokeh effects. Inside the camera app you’ll find a slider that lets you adjust the amount of background blur in your shot, both before and after you snap it. Apple’s phone doesn’t offer this level of depth-of-field control.

Note 8 FAQ

Does the Note 8 run Android 8?

Not yet. The Note 8 ships with the Samsung Experience based on Android Nougat 7.1.1. However, Google has said it is working with Samsung to get some of its handsets updated to Oreo before the end of the year.

Will it support Daydream?

It should. Google added Daydream support for the Galaxy S8 and S8+ in July, and since the Note has the same WQHD+ Super AMOLED display, it should be technically able to run Daydream right out of the box.

But I can use Note 8 with my old Gear VR headset right?

Actually, no. The slightly bigger screen means the Note 8 is incompatible with the older Gear VR headsets, so Samsung is selling a new one to accommodate it.

Can I use it to watch Netflix HDR shows?

It’s unclear. While the Note 8 is HDR certified by the 4K Alliance just like the Galaxy S8, the Netflix app only supports two phones for HDR playback: the LG G6 and the Sony Xperia XZ Premium. Presumably, an update will bring HDR support at some point soon, but neither Samsung nor Netflix have made an announcement.

The Apple TV 4K skates to where the puck was

apple tv 4k remote topdown

Among everything Apple announced at its press conference this week, the Apple TV 4K was the only one lacking a killer hook.

The new streaming box’s most noteworthy features are support for 4K HDR video—already table stakes in other high-end streaming boxes—and a faster processor for the Apple TV’s oft-neglected gaming features. The remote control got a slight redesign, perhaps to stop people from holding it wrong, and there’s gigabit ethernet instead of 10/100Mbps, but Apple introduced nothing on the hardware side to change the way we interact with our televisions.

The company did raise prices: The new Apple TV 4K costs $179, which is $30 more than the previous version (introduced in 2015). And while the two-year-old 1080p Apple TV is sticking around, it’ll carry the same $150 price tag that

This was an unusual segment in a presentation that otherwise focused on how Apple, in the words of worldwide marketing head Phil Schiller, tries to “skate to where the puck is going to be.” Schiller had just demoed the iPhone X, and was referring to a classic Wayne Gretzky quote as relayed by Steve Jobs a decade earlier. But while Apple’s new iPhone displayed foresight with its new approaches to security, augmented reality, and software design, the Apple TV is still playing catch-up.

All about VOD

The Apple TV 4K does have one unique angle: Beyond just Netflix and Amazon in 4K HDR, iTunes will offer movie purchases and rentals in the new format, and they’ll cost the same in 4K HDR as they do in HD. For purchases, prices should be around $20 per film, rather than the $25 or $30 per film that other stores charge currently. For rentals, the price will likely be around $5 per film instead of up to $10. Apple will also upgrade iTunes users’ existing HD purchases to 4K HDR at no extra charge, provided the films are available in the new format.

new appletv hummingbird 4k hdr comparisonApple
4K HDR does make a noticeable difference—especially on the HDR side.

4K HDR, with its crisper images and more vivid colors, is a genuine leap forward in video quality, so this might give some owners of the requisite 4K HDR televisions an incentive to buy. But for most people, it won’t register as a major benefit for a few reasons:

First, Apple hasn’t said how many 4K HDR titles it’ll have for purchase or upgrade, but we can probably get an idea by looking at other services. Vudu offers 121 movies in Ultra HD, compared to more than 24,000 films in standard or high definition, while FandangoNow lists 197 Ultra HD films, so it’s safe to assume most movies will remain in HD for a while. Disney has also indicated that it won’t offer 4K HDR movies on iTunes at all.

Second, digital purchases and rentals make up a small fraction of what people spend on video, especially compared to subscription streaming. Survey data supplied by Parks Associates shows that U.S. households on average spent less than $1 per month each for video purchases and rentals in Q3 2016, which is the last time Parks gathered this data. Those figures—which include both TV shows and movies—have been steadily declining over the past five years, while subscription streaming expenditure is sharply rising. Surveyed households spent around $8 per month on average for services like Netflix in Q3 2016.

parksdataParks Associates

Finally, the $179 Apple TV 4K is about $90 pricier than the Roku Premiere+ and about $110 pricier than the Chromecast Ultra. Rumored 4K HDR Fire TV devices from Amazon are expected to be much cheaper than the Apple TV 4K as well. That means the idea of saving money on 4K HDR iTunes movies rings a bit hollow.

At best, then, Apple’s pricing and upgrades create a modest Apple TV purchase incentive for 4K HDR TV owners. But given the dearth of available 4K HDR titles, the shortage of interest in digital movie purchases, and the strong preference among consumers for lower-cost streaming devices, selling discounted 4K HDR movies through iTunes isn’t a huge selling point overall.

(Still) not too late

The Apple TV can still redeem itself, and you can see some signs of foresight if you squint hard enough. As part of this week’s press conference, Apple announced support for live news and sports in its TV app, which aggregates video from various streaming apps into a single guide. ESPN, MLB, NBA, CNN, and Bloomberg are on board as early supporters.

appletv4kApple
The TV app is the Apple TV’s most forward-thinking feature.

In its current form, the TV app still seems like it’s searching for an audience. Antenna-friendly services like Tablo, Plex, and Channels aren’t supported, nor is Netflix, making it a tough sell for many cord-cutters. For streaming bundles like Sling TV and DirecTV Now, the patchy nature of TV Everywhere app support means you can’t reliably use the TV app in place of those bundles’ own apps. And the limited support for single sign-in among major cable providers means that using Apple TV instead of a cable box can be a hassle.

Yet with live sports and news, the TV app almost seems evermore like scaffolding for an Apple streaming bundle. Instead of creating an entirely new interface, Apple could just tie into TV Everywhere apps and embed its bundle directly into the Apple TV’s main menu, which also integrates with standalone services like Amazon Video and Crunchyroll. This sort of solution would be unique to the Apple TV, and could provide an easy off ramp from cable for many more people.

This is all just speculation, though, and 4K HDR has little to do with it. Compared to what cheaper streaming devices offer already, the Apple TV 4K’s namesake feature is only a minor perk for the small percentage of people who haven’t left Apple’s video ecosystem. Wherever the puck is going, it’s unlikely to travel through iTunes.

Pixel 2: Everything we know about Google’s next flagship phone

google pixel xl 2 resized

Google has begun to tease the launch of the Pixel 2 phones and will announce them on October 4.

Google flipped the script last year when it retired the Nexus line in favor of its own branded handsets. Now all eyes are on the Pixel 2. With improved specs and even better cameras, the new phones are poised to propel Google back to the head of the class with a pure Android O experience.

Since the Pixel and Pixel XL landed, the LG G6 and Galaxy S8 have upped the ante for premium phones with their slim bezels and 16:9 screens. So, like last year, we’ll be watching to see whether the next version of Google’s handset can chip away at Samsung’s dominance. Details are already starting to leak about the Pixel 2 phones, so stay tuned to this article for the very latest information:

Pixel 2 design and display

pixel 2 android policeAndroid Police
An alleged leaked render published by Android Police shows the second-generation Pixel XL with thin bezels and a 2:1 screen.

While the Pixel’s iPhone-inspired front seemed somewhat uninspired last year, it looks downright boring next to the bezel-slimming designs of LG’s G6 and Samsung’s Galaxy S8. Rumors suggest that will change. Android Police has gotten its hands on a supposed leak of the Pixel 2 XL rendering, where it appears to have a 2:1 screen like the G6 and S8, much thinner bezels, and smoother 3D edges (though the report says the glass will be flat, not curved). The site claims the new phone will sport a 6-inch AMOLED display manufactured by LG, which makes sense given Google’s reported $900 million investment in LG Display. The picture also shows a similar two-tone rear case with a smaller window of glass around the camera, a feature first reported by XDA Developers.  Android Police says that the XL model will represent “the cutting edge of Google’s engineering and design efforts, while the smaller device will act as a sort of entry-level option.”

pixel 2 leakGSMArena
This leaked image of the smaller Pixel 2 shows a device with big bezels and what looks like front stereo speakers

Speaking of the entry-level Pixel, XDA Developers reports it will feature a 4.97-inch, 1080p display similar to the current version’s, with an “almost identical” design. A leaked image published by GSMArena, above, seems to confirm this description. The spy shot shows a slightly more rectangular device with chunky bezels all around. Of note, there is a new speaker slit below the screen, suggesting the handset will have front-facing stereo speakers.

A series of 3D renders based on leaked design schematics confirm much of what Android Police and XDA Developers have reported as far as the design goes, with dimensions that match of very closely to the current models: 145.3 x 69.3 x 7.8 mm for the smaller model and 157.6 x 76.3 x 7.9 mm for the XL. But there’s one extra tidbit: There may be a camera bump as well.

Pixel 2 specs, features, and sound

Last year’s Pixel featured the then-top-of-the-line Snapdragon 821 chip, and this year’s Pixel may also incorporate high-quality silicon. XDA Developers claims the phones will be powered by the Snapdragon 835 chip, along with the same 4GB of RAM in the current models. A newer report from International Business Times claims that Google will be using an updated version of the chip, much like last year. The publication says it will be the the first phone to use the Snapdragon 836 chip, bringing “faster throughput with minimal power consumption.” Evan Blass all but confirmed the new chip with in a tweet announcing the date the new phones will be unveiled. However, recent reports say the phones will stick with the Snapdragon 835 chip in the Note 8, V30, and other phones.

Additionally, 9to5 Mac says both Pixels will come in two storage configurations, 64GB and 128GB, though it’s unclear whether they will replace the entry-level 32GB. The site also says the phones will feature always-on displays.

Audiophiles will be bummed to learn that Google might dump the headphone jack in the Pixel 2. XDA Developers and 9to5Google both report that the 3.5mm jack will be jettisoned in the new model in favor of stereo speakers. And the 3D renders we’ve seen all but confirm this report. However, audiophiles should rest a little easier knowing that Google has been hard at work at fixing the Bluetooth issues that plague the current models, as reveled in a recent Reddit AMA by Android O engineers.

Finally, Android Police reports that the new Pixel will have a squeezable frame like the HTC U11 to launch Google Assistant and other apps.

Pixel 2 water resistance

lg g6 waterproof fixedMichael Simon
Will the Pixel 2 bring water resistance like the LG G6?

It was somewhat surprising that Google opted to skip IP68 water resistance in the original Pixel, but there are signs it will rectify that in its next handset. As 9to5Google explains, the feature is “on the table” for the Pixel 2—although sources had previously informed the site that it was a priority for the next release.

Pixel 2 camera

pixel xl cameraJason Cross
The Pixel 2 camera will be better, but by how much?

If there’s one thing you can count on in a new flagship phone, it’s that the camera will be better. 9to5Google reports that Google won’t focus on megapixels with the Pixel 2, but rather will “compensate in extra features.” It’s unclear exactly what that means, but the site says the camera will be a “major focus” in the development of the Pixel 2. Additionally, XDA Developers reports that the Pixel 2 will stick with a single camera rather than a dual setup. And the render from Android Police bears this out, showing a single lens that is much larger than the current model, however it does appear to jut out ever so slightly from the case.

In a blog post, Google has already shown off some incredible results from its experimental nighttime photography techniques that use the existing Pixel camera to generate some incredible low-light images, and we’re hoping some of that processing power makes its way into the Pixel 2.

Pixel 2 price

Premium phones don’t usually go down in price, and the Pixel 2 isn’t about to break that trend. In fact, it might cost more. 9to5Google reports that Google’s next handset will be “at least” $50 higher than this year’s model, meaning it would start at $699 for the 5-inch model and top $800 for the Pixel 2 XL. Furthermore, a comment by Rick Osterloh confirms that the flagship Pixel will stay a “premium” phone, meaning it will fetch many hundreds of dollars.

Pixel 2 naming and release

pixel xl boxJason Cross
The Pixel 2 will likely release in late October.

Conventional wisdom has it that Google’s next phones will indeed be called the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. However, Google hasn’t always been linear with its naming. For example, the Nexus One was followed by the Nexus S and the Galaxy Nexus before the Nexus 4. So Google might throw us a curveball with the next Pixel.

But we do know the code names. Following the longstanding tradition, Google has internally named its new phones after fish. According to Android Police, the smaller of the two new phones is called Walleye while the XL version is Taimen. A third phone code-named Muskie was also in the works but has been shelved.

Google has started to tease the release of the Pixel 2 with a new websitefeaturing the tagline, “Thinking about changing phones?” There’s also a video set to Fat Joe’s “Still Not a Player” that addresses several problems that people have with Android phones, including battery life, storage, and photo quality. The video ends with, “Funny you should ask,” with the date of October 4.

But will it beat the Galaxy S8?

Will it beat the S8? That’s the million-dollar question. The Galaxy S8 is a force to be reckoned with, and Google certainly has its work cut out for it if it plans on besting Samsung’s latest flagship. The features listed here would go a long way toward giving the Pixel 2 bragging rights, but the main thing it needs is availability, both through Google’s online store and through additional carrier support. For more on what the Pixel 2 needs to be the best phone of 2017, read our analysis.

The smartwatch market is actually performing pretty well

While the wearables field is proving a tough space for many companies, smartwatches are apparently doing quite well. In a report from International Data Corporation on this year’s second quarter earnings, sales numbers show that wearables are up 10.3 percent year over year. That number includes a small — nearly one percent — but notable first time drop in annual growth for basic wearables, like most Fitbit trackers, that don’t run third party apps. On the other side of that, though, smartwatch growth topped 60 percent this quarter compared to the same time last year.

“Smartwatches recorded double-digit year-over-year growth, with much of that increase attributable to a growing number of models aimed at specific market segments, like the fashion-conscious and outdoor enthusiasts in addition to the technophile crowd, lower price points, and a slowly-warming reception from consumers and enterprise users alike,” said IDC’s wearables research manager, Ramon Llamas, in a statement. “Factor in how smartwatches are taking steps to become standalone devices, and more applications are becoming available, and the smartwatch slowly becomes a more suitable mass market product.”

Apple was a big leader with nearly 50 percent year over year growth during the second quarter, while, as reported previously, Xiaomi took the top spot in the wearables market. Though Fitbit has dropped to third place and its second quarter year over year change was an over 40 percent decrease in growth, its upcoming Ionic watch could help it grab some of the fast-moving smartwatch growth. Fossil, which entered the wearables market top five for the first time, has done well with its slew of smartwatchesproduced by its Fossil brand as well as high-end brands like Armani that fall under its umbrella. And Misfit — another Fossil brand — has its snazzy-looking Vapor smartwatch set to launch in October.

The next big wearables star could be clothing and earwear, which according to IDC, showed triple-digit growth. “These products are still in their initial stages, but by targeting specific market niches (performance tracking clothing for professional athletes) or providing unique value propositions (audio adjustment or language translation for earworn devices), these products are offering solutions to problems other than simply reporting data, and gaining traction,” said Llamas.