Panasonic’s SC-GA10 smart hi-fi speaker wants to take down Google Home

At IFA 2017 Panasonic has launched a hi-fi speaker armed with Google Assistant. The Panasonic SC-GA10 aims to supplant the Google Home by, well, sounding better.

There are two 20mm soft-dome tweeters placed at 45 degrees, which gives a full 180-degree sound field. The 8cm woofer is armed with dual voice coils for more robust bass, as well as a long reflex port. There are even manual and preset EQs. Basically, the Panasonic SC-GA10 claims to put a lot more focus on sound than the Google Home does.

It should be just as smart as the Google Home too, as it is fully compatible with Google Assistant. It supports major music streaming apps such as Spotify, Google Play and TuneIn Radio.

You can also perform basic web searches, make to-do lists, control smart home devices, and enjoy multi-room audio with other Chromecast-integrated speakers. Alternatively, you can get two Panasonic SC-GA10 units and use them in stereo configuration via Bluetooth.

The Panasonic SC-GA10 will go on sale in early 2018. No price has been announced as yet.

Google Home just caught up to Amazon Echo in a major way

It’s been a big week for Google Home owners. Firstly, the company began rolling out support for hands-free voice calling, and now it has opened up wider support for the world’s favourite music streaming service.

As promised back at Google I/O in June, Spotify Free users can now play music via the smart home speaker, as well as paying Premium customers.

Thanks to the update, those unwilling to fork out for their monthly streaming will be able to request hits, simply by adding “on Spotify” to their voice commands.

The rollout also allows Spotify Free users to Cast music to other speakers around the home, so long as they’re linked to the Home speaker.

If you wish to add your Spotify Free account, you can head to the Google Home app and browse to the music section (via Android Police).

 

Provided you have the app installed on your smartphone, you’ll be able to login in with your ad-supported Spotify Free account and away you go.

You’ll have to put up with lower quality audio, as is the case when you don’t pay for your music, but it’s a small price to pay.

How about Apple Music?

Full Spotify support comes following Deezer integration this month.

As far as music is concerned, Google Home is beginning to catch up with the Amazon Echo, which has long supported a wider range of options.

Both are still missing Apple Music. It’s hardly a surprise when Apple is going to be pushing its subscribers (possibily with extreme force) towards the HomePod.

Xbox One X release date, specs, price, games, pre-orders and everything we know

Xbox One X release date, specs, price, games and everything we know
Xbox One X, previously known as Project Scorpio, is Microsoft’s 4K UHD console coming later this year. We’ve compiled everything you need to know about the new system including its specs, release date, price and more.

Microsoft has fully spilled the beans on the Xbox One X, and it looks like it has been worth the wait.

For starters, the Xbox One X will be fully backwards-compatible with Xbox One games – and offer improved performance on these titles to boot.

On the technical side, there was some new information about the specs. The processor is cooled using a liquid vapour chamber, a technique that’s becoming more common on more compact devices. There’s also a brand-new power-management system for the most efficient delivery of electricity seen on an Xbox console.

And finally, Microsoft revealed the Xbox One X’s price and release date. Read on for full details of everything we now know about the Xbox One X.

Xbox One X pre-orders: when can I buy one?
You can now pre-order the Xbox One X ahead of its November release. Microsoft confirmed specific details during its recent Gamescom presentation, which is also saw the reveal of the Xbox One X: Project Scorpio Edition.

This hugely limited hardware is now available to pre-order, although many retailers have already ran out of stock. At the time of writing, it can still be pre-ordered directly from the Microsoft Store and GAME. It maintains the £449.99 price of the standard console, meaning this is something hardcore Xbox fans will want to have in their collection.

Xbox One X Specs: How powerful is the Xbox One X?
Here’s a quick breakdown of all the key Xbox One X specs:

CPU: Eight-core 2.3GHz processor
GPU: 40 compute units at 1172MHz
RAM: 12GB GDDR5 (shared between system and GPU)
Bandwidth: 326GB/s
Storage: 1TB hard disk
Disc: UHD Blu-ray player
Video: 4K output, HDR 10 support
Audio: DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1 and Atmos, PCM 2.0, 5.1, 7.1
Wireless: Bluetooth, dual-band Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, IR blaster
Connectors: 2x HDMI (2.0b out, 1.4b in), 3x USB 3.0 ports, IR out, S/PDIF, Ethernet
First, let’s look at the headline Xbox One X specs before moving onto how this will affect gaming resolution and performance.

The One X uses an eight-core processor, likely from AMD although not officially stated, running at 2.3GHz. Seasoned PC gamers might not think this sounds like a lot and, indeed, it isn’t. But keep in mind console processors are packed into an incredibly tight space, and more GHz means more heat. This is still a substantial boost over the Xbox One, whose eight cores ran at 1.75GHz.

iPhone 8’s face-scanning feature may work even when phone lays flat

The iPhone 8 is fast-becoming the most leaked phone in history, with the mountain of rumours and reports growing ever-higher.

At the end of July we had a leak from none other than Apple itself, which accidentally pushed firmware for its upcoming HomePod smart speaker and inadvertently released details of forthcoming products.

That included the iPhone 8, which showed up in crude design outlines hidden within the code itself.

And now, it seems the code is still providing us with info about the upcoming handset, this time connected to the oft-rumoured facial recognition tech.

The HomePod’s firmware itself showed that the iPhone will come with infra-red face unlock in BiometricKit – a developer tool for biometric sensor tech.

But it seems the facial recognition, internally referred to as “Pearl”, will be more capable than existing versions of the feature, if the latest revelations from the code are accurate.

Instead of having to pick the phone up for the feature to work, code suggests it will be able to scan a user’s face and unlock a device while the phone is laying flat on a surface (via).

As iHelp BR found, code strings found in the firmware make reference to “AXRestingPearlUnlock” and “com.apple.accessibility.resting.pearl.unlock”.

Apple is expected to introduce the facial recognition feature, perhaps in place of the Touch ID fingerprint scanner, which will likely be affected by the new, almost full-face screen design.

Whether Apple will be able to integrate the fingerprint scanner into the display remains to be seen, but at this point there’s nothing to confirm that will be the case.

These code strings include “APPS_USING_PEARL” and “PEARL_AUTOLOCK”, suggesting the feature could be used to unlock specific apps and prevent particular people from using the phone.

At this point, it’s all still a bit unclear, but Apple is expected to unveil the phone in September so stay tuned.

Your non-Samsung phone could soon get Samsung Pay

Samsung may bring its Samsung Pay mobile payments service to non-Samsung phones for the first time, according to a new report.

Gadget 360 claims the company is investigating bringing the service to other handsets, based on information from “a source familiar with the developments”.

Sammy is said to be holding internal talks, both within the company and with OEMs, about Samsung Pay’s expansion.

The company’s mobile payments platform launched in the UK in May this year, with Samsung debuting PayPal support for US users earlier this month.

Sammy outdoes rival services from Apple and Google by allowing users to use the service with both NFC technology and magnetic secure transmission (MST) technology.

As it stands, only a handful of Samsung handsets support Samsung Pay, with some mid-range offerings in India only coming with a pared-down version of the feature called Samsung Pay Mini.

However, if the report is accurate, we could see the full service appearing on numerous new phones from other companies.

That said, outside companies will have to add a specialised chip in order to enable the use of MST technology and support Samsung Pay.

One way Samsung is trying to make this easier, according to the source, is by investigating the feasibility of an accessory, similar to LoopPay Card, that could attach to other phones.

What’s more, the source claims Samsung will be looking to introduce its plans, in whatever form they take, in mid-2018.

Samsung is yet to confirm any of this for now, so the usual due caution is advised here.

OnePlus 5 battery life set for major improvement – report

Good news! OnePlus 5 owners may be about to get a significant boost to battery life thanks to a newly rumoured software update.

Another day, another OnePlus 5 software update – at least according to a French tech blog that claims OnePlus is cooking up a seriously tasty upgrade for owners of the company’s last flagship smartphone.

In a new blog post, French outlet Frandroid claims that OnePlus is hoping to improve battery life for the OnePlus 5. The claim is that the OnePlus 5 will soon be capable of achieving seven hours of screen-on time, while consuming just 50% of the battery charge. To do this, the company is reportedly making adjustments to the kernel – the bit of software that manages all the components in your device – to give better autonomy to the phone battery.

The article notes that one possible solution would be the integration of Energy Aware Scheduling (EAS), a power management system that lets the kernel take better advantage of multi-core architectures. An example of that would be the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, the OnePlus 5 chipset that is built based on ARM’s multi-core big.LITTLE design.

With EAS, the OnePlus 5 would be able to better manage the different cores of the processor and distribute computing tasks accordingly, assigning processes to high-power or low-power cores dependant on the requirement.

EAS has already been implemented on the Google Pixel phones, as Google added ARM’s EAS system to the Android 3.18 kernel last summer – that’s the version Pixel phones use. Google also added it to kernel 4.4 in June this year, which is the kernel version used by the OnePlus 5.

According to Frandroid, the new version of OnePlus’ OxygenOS should be available in the coming weeks, although it admits that there may be delays if bugs emerge.

The bad news is that there’s no way of verifying this information, since OnePlus hasn’t made any official statements on the matter. Given that the article’s source is anonymous, we’d recommend taking this leak with due caution until we get official word from OnePlus about such an update.

This new WhatsApp feature isn’t exactly killer – but it’s damn useful

Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp now enables users to exchange files of any kind.

In a new update, the firm has extended document attachments beyond the PDFs it enabled last year.

Now users can send any files, as long as they’re under 100MB. That also means users will be able to share higher-res photos with each other.

Elsewhere, the app will now allow users to use formatted text with bold, italic and strike-through text now possible. All you’ll need to do is hold your finger down on the words you’d like to format.

Also part of the roll-out for Android is the new photo album system, which came to iOS users last month.

The update automatically groups photos together in an album, rather than each appearing concurrently within the message thread.

The images will appear as a grid, with additional images being represented numerically in the bottom right corner of the grid.

The update is rolling out to both iOS and Android users now.

Report: Amazon’s next Echo will tackle the threat of Apple’s HomePod

Amazon is plotting a new Echo speaker featuring greatly improved sound, as it seeks to head of the threat of the incoming Apple HomePod speaker.

According to sources speaking to Engadget, the next smart speaker will add in ‘several’ tweeters, rather than the single tweeter and woofer combo featured in the current model.

This would offset the biggest criticism levied at the popular Alexa-packing device; the poor sound compared with other Bluetooth-enabled speakers, as well as the Google Home rival.

Meanwhile, the company plans to reduce the physical footprint, with the source describing it as 3-4 Echo Dot devices stacked upon each other.

Amazon is also ditching the plastic speaker grille, according to the report. Instead it’ll use a cloth covering that could ensure a more premium-looking product.

The improvements don’t stop there, Wednesday’s report says, with Amazon plotting to boost the microphone technology in a way that’s still unclear.

Currently the Amazon Echo has a total of 7 far-field mics, so it’s unlikely the firm is going to be adding more. It may be that the next-gen Echo simply improves its already excellent voice recognition tech.

It’s unclear when Amazon will release its new Echo, what it’ll be called and how much it’ll cost. However, if the retail giant is seeking to go all-in and challenge Apple’s HomePod we may end up seeing a more premium price point.

Amazon has naturally declined to comment on the reports, but we’re already prepping us for the best Echo yet. Let’s hope we see it on sale for Prime Day 2018!

Here’s when Moto will be announcing those recently leaked devices

Lenovo-owned Motorola has announced it is holding an event later this month, where it is likely to announce a fleet of new smartphones.

The #hellomotoworld event will take place in New York on July 25, where the Moto Z2 Force and the Moto X4 handsets will surely be on display.

The Moto Z2 Force has been tipped as the firm’s 2017 flagship handset. It’s said to include a dual camera, a sleek design and a front-facing fingerprint sensor built into the home button.

It will likely be a tougher and more capable version of the Z2 Play, which was announced last month. It is reported there’ll be a Snapdragon 835 processor, 6GB RAM and a 5.5-inch QHD display.

A recent render of the Z2 Force also showed the Moto Mods connector. As such, we’re also likely to get a closer look at the slew of new modular accessories that were tipped at an event in Ghana last week (via Android Central).

The event previewed a 360-degree camera, a GoPro-style action camera, a DSLR Mod and a Marshall-branded speaker.

As for the Moto X4, we reportedly got our first look at the specs and design this week.

The well-connected Evan Blass believes the Moto X4 will arrive towards the end of the year with an octa-core Snapdragon 620 processor running at 2.2GHz and coupled with 4GB of RAM.

The 5.2-inch full HD screen will show off Android 7.1 Nougat, while there’ll also be a 3,000mAh battery, IP68 water resistance and 64GB of internal storage, plus microSD.

The rear cameras will be 8-megapixels and 12-megapixels respectively, according to Blass, while the front-facing selfie cam will be a whopping 16-megapixels.

Get an Xbox One S with Forza Horizon 3 for under £190

We’ve got a deal that we reckon can finally convince you to make the leap and pick up an Xbox One S.

Grainger Games is doing a cracking deal on the Xbox One S, which gets you the 500GB version of the console as well as a copy of Forza Horizon 3 – all for just £188.99

On Amazon for instance, you’d pay £197.99 for an Xbox One S (500GB) and £31.99 for Forza Horizon 3, which totals £229.98. That means you’re saving a hefty £40.99 by bagging this deal.

We gave the Xbox One S a 4/5 score in our review, praising the console’s 4K game upscaling, the HDR compatibility, the great value for money (especially as a UHD Blu-ray player), and the small form factor.

Here’s our verdict, which was written around the time of the console’s launch last year:

“The Xbox One S is far better than the original Xbox One, with improvements on every front. It’s smaller, it’s prettier and it includes a greater number of features. Sure, the gaming element is almost unchanged, but HDR gaming compatibility means at least a degree of future-proofing. Then there’s the 4K output: although it’s upscaled, rather than native, right now this is the best you’ll get from a console.”

“But the real worth is the ability to play UHD Blu-rays. This is the most affordable 4K Blu-ray player on the market, and it’s a competent performer to boot. If you own a 4K TV and you want your movies and games looking their best, the Xbox One S is a no-brainer.”

“Microsoft faces competition from Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro. While the Sony offers 4K and HDR in gaming, it doesn’t play UHD Blu-rays. That’s a major omission in my book, leaving an open goal for the Xbox One S.”

Meanwhile, Forza Horizon 3 scored a very rare 5/5 score when we reviewed it, with key highlights including the wide roster of extremely customisable cars, the beautiful graphics, the fun and varied events, the impressive and varying range of terrains, the competitive Drivatar AI, and the solid online multiplayer.

Here’s our verdict from last year:

“Besides that time I threw my Mustang around the bends of the Blue Ridge Parkway, I have never had a more fun, thrilling or satisfying driving experience.”

“This game gets my heart rate going like no other racer. It captures the childish glee of playing with toy cars and combines it with the adrenaline of throwing yourself around in a very expensive hunk of metal.”

“Will it last? I’ve had a solid week of this and I’m not even close to being bored yet. Then there’s Playground Games’ history of adding worthwhile expansion packs, which promises to keep things fresh.”