7 Days is a weekly round-up of the Editors' picks of what's been happening in the world of technology - written with a dash of humor, a hint of exasperation, and an endless supply of (Irish) coffee.
The next few weeks promise to be a very exciting time for tech fans, with new versions of the top three mobile operating systems incoming, and scores of new devices on the way over the next couple of months. With so many big announcements on the horizon, you might have expected a quiet August across the tech world – but over the past week, there’s been no respite from the relentless pace of official announcements, juicy rumors and spyshots of new stuff on the way.
We begin this week with the rather unpleasant situation surrounding Ashley Madison, the site that encouraged users to sign up in the hopes of pursuing an extramarital affair. Hackers recently demanded that the site be taken down, but after its owners did not do so, the hackers dumped data relating to Ashley Madison’s 32 million customers on to the web earlier this week. The group behind the attack, which identifies itself as ‘Impact Team’, also published what appeared to be internal data and emails from the company a couple of days later.
In happier news, Finnish company Jolla opened the first pre-orders for its new crowdfunded Tablet on Thursday. Priced from €267 EUR ($299 USD), only “limited quantities” of pre-order units are available in a handful of markets for now. You’ve got to love the attention to detail in Jolla’s renders – according to the device in its press images, the time now is both 12:03 and 12:37.
Last week, a report claimed that Apple’s iOS 9 launch event, at which its new iPhones will be unveiled, will be held on September 9. On Tuesday, a German publication reported that two carriers have now confirmed that the latest iPhones will subsequently go on sale on September 18.
Apple has acknowledged a fault on “a small percentage” of its iPhone 6 Plus handsets, which causes the rear camera to produce blurry photos. The company says that the affected devices were sold between September 2014 and January 2015, and it’s offering a free repair and replacement program for the iSight camera on eligible devices.
On Monday, one of Google’s two upcoming Nexus handsets was apparently caught on camera (you can see a larger, clearer image here). Made by LG, the 5.2-inch handset looks like it will include the same laser-assisted camera focus from the company’s G3 and G4 flagships. It will also be joined by a 5.7-inch Nexus handset from Huawei.
LG is betting big on OLED display technology, with an $8.5 billion investment over the next three years, aimed at establishing the company as a leader in the next generation of truly flexible displays for mobile devices, and large-panel OLED TVs and commercial displays.
LG had a bit of fun at Samsung’s expense this week, promoting its latest G4 flagship by mocking Samsung’s decision not to offer its brand new Galaxy Note 5 in dozens of major markets around the world.
After the disappointment of its limited Note 5 availability, Samsung managed to frustrate its customers again this week, after its website referred to 128GB versions of the Note 5, and the Galaxy S6 edge+ that was unveiled alongside it. However, those hoping to buy a 128GB model were less than impressed when Samsung later said it was an error, and no 128GB versions exist.
Meanwhile, it looks like Samsung is planning to add yet another product line to its vast range of Android devices. The company is said to be readying two new handsets for launch – the Galaxy O5 and Galaxy O7 – although it’s not yet clear where they’ll slot into its range.
Google’s engineering teams have been developing a new modular smartphone prototype, with components that can be easily removed, replaced and upgraded as desired. Known as ‘Project Ara’, the aim is to develop a market-ready product, and Google had intended to test the device on public networks in Puerto Rico this year.
However, earlier this week, the dev team announced that Project Ara has been delayed until 2016, and it seems the blame lies with the system of electropermanent magnets used to attach each removable component module to the device skeleton, which apparently isn’t working as intended.
Google launched another, very different piece of hardware this week though. On Tuesday, it unveiled the OnHub, a $199 home WiFi router which aims to make setting up a home network a simple and painless experience – but if you don’t have an Android or iOS device, you won’t be able to use it.
Over in Europe, Google says that it accepts full responsibility for a small amount of permanent data loss at one of its data centers this month, after a power grid near its facility in Belgium was repeatedly struck by lightning. The power spikes that resulted caused 0.000001% of data to be permanently lost – but the company says it has learned from the incident.
Chinese tech giant Huawei unveiled a new upper-mid-range handset this week, with a rather interesting camera configuration. The Honor 7i has a 5.2-inch 1080p screen, octa-core Snapdragon 616 processor and 2GB of RAM – but its stand-out feature is the unusual 13MP camera that serves both the front and rear of the device.
Fellow Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi launched its latest Android-based user experience this week, MIUI 7. Along with performance improvements, and a claimed 10% boost in battery efficiency, MIUI 7 also includes a range of customization options, including a simple tool to design themes to personalize your device.
BlackBerry's upcoming Android flagship - which features a Galaxy S6 edge-style dual-curved display - has appeared in another leaked image, clearly showing the handset's slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Leaks of the new device – known currently by its codename ‘Venice’ – have certainly generated some excitement in recent weeks; indeed, like us, we know that many of our readers are eager to find out more about it.
We don't know exactly what its spec sheet looks like yet, but it's expected to be a true mobile flagship, and given its expected November launch date, it will likely run the newest version of the Android OS.
It was first announced as the Android ‘M’ release, but on Monday, Google revealed that it will be known as Android 6.0 ‘Marshmallow’ when it officially launches, and - true to tradition - it unveiled a new and appropriately-themed 'statue' of its Android mascot too. The company also made its Android 6.0 SDK available on Tuesday, along with the final Developer Preview release.
Meanwhile, Microsoft’s new smartphone OS remains in development, ahead of its launch later this year. Last week, it released its first Windows 10 Mobile Insider Preview for over a month. This week, we asked our readers for their impressions of that release, build 10512 – head over to the discussion, and be sure to have your say!
There was no new Mobile build this week, but Microsoft did release the first new preview build of Windows 10 for PCs since the OS launched on July 29:
- Microsoft rolls out Windows 10 Insider Preview build 10525
- What’s new
- Known issues
- Workaround for Chrome crashes in the latest build
Microsoft has pushed out three cumulative updates to Windows 10 since its launch, delivering bug fixes and security patches. However, the company said this week that it will no longer break down what’s included in these incremental update rollups; detailed release notes will now be reserved only for more ‘significant’ updates.
The company released an update this week for its Surface Pro 2 and Pro 3 tablets, which it says will bring enhanced graphics performance, along with improved stability for those running Windows 10 on the devices.
The Surface Pro 4 will be among a wide range of new devices – including the Band 2 and new Lumia flagships – that Microsoft will unveil at a launch event in October, as we exclusively reported several weeks ago. This week, another news outlet apparently confirmed much of what we’d previously shared, and it certainly seems that everything is on track for that October hardware extravaganza.
Microsoft is continuing to upgrade PCs around the world to Windows 10, and it seems that that process is going well. The OS has now been installed on over 53 million devices; that's around 4.95% of the total PC market.
With Windows 10 now publicly available – and Microsoft rolling out regular updates to fix bugs and patch other issues – we asked our readers this week if they’re sticking with the Windows Insider program. While Insiders get access to new builds and features ahead of others, there may well be some temptation to opt for the stable public releases instead – particularly for those who don’t have a spare PC on which to test new builds.
Will you remain a Windows Insider? Be sure to cast your vote in our latest poll!
Windows Hello is a new biometric authentication system in Windows 10, which can sign you in to your PC almost instantly - not with a password or even a fingerprint, but simply by scanning your face. The technology behind it is certainly impressive – and in fact, it’s even better than we had previously realized, as the system is able to distinguish between identical twins. While the feature is baked into Windows 10, though, it requires new-generation hardware in order to function.
Another hardware-dependent feature coming to Windows 10 is the ability to wake your PC with your voice. Intel showed off its new Smart Sound technology this week, which allows users to call out ‘Hey Cortana, wake up my PC’ to turn their computer back on and ready for action.
Intel’s 6th-generation Skylake processors made their way into several headlines this week:
- Core i7 Skylake processor reaches nearly 7GHz
- Skylake processors for mobile workstations
- Information about mobile Skylake processors officially revealed
- Unlocked Skylake-K processors heading to laptops
The results of a survey published this week – which monitored posts on social media to gauge reactions – indicate that users’ sentiments towards Windows 10 and Cortana have been overwhelmingly positive so far. Still, one survey alone isn’t exactly irrefutable evidence of the operating system’s success, but it certainly looks like Windows 10 is off to a good start with consumers.
Microsoft’s Office 365 got some good press this week, as it emerged that authorities in an Italian municipality have abandoned their OpenOffice deployment, in favor of a return to Office. The local government had spent years – and far money than they’d expected – trying to get the open source solution to work, but an independent study commissioned by the authorities showed that savings of up to 80% could be made by ditching OpenOffice for Office 365.
It also rolled out a security update on Wednesday, patching a vulnerability in all supported versions of Internet Explorer, which allowed users to gain access to a PC with the same user privileges as the legitimate user.
It’s been a while since we heard about the new Halo TV series with Steven Spielberg as executive producer – but this week, cable network Showtime confirmed that it’s still “in very active development”, although it offered no further info on when it will get its TV premiere.
Microsoft has been sending out notifications to users of Comcast’s Xfinity app on the Xbox 360, informing them that the app will be withdrawn, and removed from their consoles, on September 1.
Microsoft recently confirmed that it will fully roll out Xbox 360 backward compatibility on its Xbox One later this year, with support for over 100 titles at launch. But this week, Phil Spencer revealed that he has had numerous discussions with his engineers about the possibility of also introducing support for playing games designed for the original Xbox on its latest console.
The Xbox One also picked up support for 1080p/60fps game streaming to Windows 10 PCs in an update that arrived shortly after Microsoft announced that the feature was on the way.
Xbox owners are no stranger to previews of upcoming updates – but this week, Sony invited owners of its PlayStation 4 to sign up to test a beta of its next major software update for the console.
Sony announced that it will host a PlayStation press conference at Paris Games Week on October 27, where the company is expected to make its big gaming announcements ahead of the all-important holiday shopping season.
And with Star Wars: The Force Awakens hitting cinemas later this year, Sony’s new Darth Vader-themed PlayStation 4 will surely be the choice for fans of the movie series who want to feel the Force via its DualShock controller.
But we end this week on a particularly cruel and unusual note, with the agonizing death of one of the most popular mobile phones ever released, Nokia’s venerable 3310, as it succumbs to a red-hot ball of nickel. If you listen very carefully, you can just about hear the handset’s final anguished screams as it slowly perishes in flame.
Before we wrap things up, don’t forget to check out the latest episode of The Redmond Report, our regular podcast roundup that makes sense of the week’s Microsoft news and developments.
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As ever, there’s plenty more to read across the site – including loads of interesting discussions over on our forums. From all of us on the Neowin team, have a great weekend!