7 Days: A week of fruity delights, Surface tribute acts, and the wait for Windows 10 Mobile

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.

We anticipated that this week would be a busy one across the tech world, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. But not everything turned out as predicted, and there were one or two surprises. As ever, 7 Days is here to make sense of the week’s top stories for you – so grab a glass of something delicious, sit back and enjoy the journey.

Texture globe image via Shutterstock

We begin this week in Germany, where the government has committed to raising the minimum connection speed for the country’s broadband networks to 50Mbps by 2018. 70% of Germany already has access to these speeds, which are around ten times faster than the global standard for broadband connections.

Over in the UK, the Raspberry Pi Foundation released an ultra-affordable 7-inch touchscreen for its hugely popular Pi micro-computer. Priced at £48 in the UK and $60 in the US, there is some assembly required – but future versions are expected to come pre-assembled.

Image via Geek

Meanwhile, South Korean firm LG has been thinking big. Very big. After signalling plans to become a world leader in OLED technology, it unveiled a colossal 111-inch, double-sided, ultra-high-resolution OLED TV, uniquely configured in a dual-curved ‘wave’ shape – and somehow, just a few millimeters thick.

Finnish tech house Jolla released the first preview of its new Sailfish OS 2.0 on Wednesday, bringing a new UI, multitasking improvements and a range of other features and additions. The OS was designed for the company’s rather literally-named Phone and Tablet, but will also be made available to other manufacturers to install on their own devices.

Controversial ad-suppression software AdBlock Plus made its way to iOS this week, in the form of a new web browser from the app’s developers. The browser also launched on the Google Play store, following a few months in beta.

But as anticipated, the biggest news of the week came from Apple, as the company hosted its Fall ‘Special Event’, unveiling a range of new hardware, along with some significant additions and improvements to its software offering.

The company unveiled new gold and rose gold (pink) color options for the Apple Watch Sport, and also announced availability details for watchOS 2 – the next major update for the device’s software, which has been in beta for the last few months.

Given the number of recent leaks, it was no surprise when the new Apple TV box was unveiled, bringing significant improvements in performance and a redesigned remote with integrated touchpad. On the software side of things, the device has a completely new interface running on top of ‘tvOS’, featuring Siri voice search and interactions for the first time. However, Siri will only be supported in eight markets – all other countries will have to make do with an ‘onscreen search app’.

Rumors of a larger iPad have been swirling almost since the original model launched in 2010. But at its event on Thursday, Apple unveiled the iPad Pro – a device that appears to draw rather a lot of inspiration from Microsoft’s Surface Pro line. Indeed, Apple’s new 12.9-inch tablet starts at the same price ($799), and also comes with an optional Smart Keyboard cover ($169 – nearly $40 than Microsoft’s), and there’s even a ‘Pencil’ stylus (an optional $99 extra, whereas the Surface Pro 3’s price includes the Pen).

The iPad Pro features no mouse support though, so all interactions rely on touch, or the use of the optional Pencil. Nonetheless, Apple was keen to tout the productivity credentials of its giant tablet – and, somewhat unexpectedly, it brought Microsoft on stage at its event to show off its Office software running on the iPad Pro.

How times have changed.

By the way, if you want to see know how the iPad Pro compares with Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3, be sure to check out our Specs Appeal showdown, comparing the two devices on paper to see how they stack up against each other. Bear in mind, though, that the Surface Pro 3 is now over a year old – and a new version will be unveiled in just a few weeks’ time.

Of course, many Apple fans who focus more on productivity will be sticking with the company’s Mac notebooks. The Mac line didn’t make an appearance on stage at the event, but Apple did quietly reveal that the next big OS X update, 10.11 El Capitan, will be released on September 30.

That rollout will begin exactly two weeks after Apple releases iOS 9 – the newest version of its mobile OS for iPad, iPod and iPhone – on September 16.

And of course, Apple delighted fans of its mobile devices with its latest and – it hopes – greatest handsets to date:

Image via Fresno Bee

In Apple’s home state of California, one of its older devices showed off one capability that was never highlighted at its launch. A gun was fired by an attacker during a mugging in Fresno, but the iPhone 5 in the victim’s pocket stopped the bullet from entering his body, perhaps saving his life.

Happily, the student escaped the attack unscathed; tragically, the iPhone perished. RIP.

But over in China, Oukitel has been subjecting its devices to the kind of brutality that, let’s face it, would make an iPhone weep. In videos showing off the durability of its new K4000 handset – which features a rather large 4000mAh battery – Oukitel attempted to smash its face in with a hammer, and when that failed to defeat it, the company then drove a car over it.

Brutal, but strangely mesmerising.

Image via Zscaler

Once again, we brought news of Android app mischief this week, this time related to an app known as ‘Adult Player’, which promises high quality megabewbs and XXL schlong action delivered straight to your handset. However, once installed, the app takes pictures using the front-facing camera, and then presents some of these images to the user, threatening to publish them online unless a $500 ransom is paid.

We’re now just a few weeks away from the launch of Google’s next major OS update, Android 6.0 Marshmallow. But almost a year after Android 5.0 Lollipop was officially announced, Google’s latest official figures revealed this week that it has only reached 21% of devices, far behind the 39% of devices running the two-year-old 4.4 KitKat.

Still, the Lollipop rollout slowly continues. This week, Android 5.1 made its way to the ageing Galaxy S4 Google Play edition – a handset that’s now two and a half years old – while 5.1.1 was released for Sony’s original Xperia Z-series devices.

But in a rather curious development, Sony also changed its stance regarding the recommended use of its water-resistant handsets. While marketing for some of its Xperia handsets has shown these devices being used underwater, Sony now recommends that owners do not use them in this way.

We’ve lost count of how many apologies OnePlus has made to its customers since it first started operations, but its CEO offered yet another one this week, admitting: “We messed up the launch of the OnePlus 2. Well, we messed up the launch of the OnePlus One as well.” The latest apology comes just weeks after it assured customers that its "new and improved" invite system would make everything better.

As usual, the company says it will learn from its mistakes blah blah blah must do better yak yak yak and—well, whatever. Sorry to say, we’ve heard these completely empty promises before.

Samsung launched its new Galaxy Note 5 in India this week, making that market one of only a select few that will get the device. The Android flagship will go on sale there later this month, priced from Rs.53,900 INR (just over $800 USD).

Meanwhile, Microsoft India has been talking up the Windows 10 Mobile devices that will launch there in the coming months, with full support for the country’s 4G LTE networks.

Microsoft also said this week that “Lumia with Windows 10 [is] set to reinvent business productivity”, and highlighted examples of the benefits that its new OS offers to corporate customers.

New photos emerged of Acer’s new flagship-class Windows 10 Mobile device, the Jade Primo, which will feature a Snapdragon 808 processor, 5.5-inch Super AMOLED display, 21MP camera and more. However, hands-on impressions from the site that published those photos suggests that the new handset may not feel like much of a flagship.

Serial leakster @evleaks revealed details of a new Windows 10 Mobile handset on the way from Alcatel OneTouch, believed to be called the ‘Fierce XL for Windows’. Despite apparently targeting the entry-level of the smartphone market, it seems the device will feature some pretty impressive specs.

WhatsApp updated the beta release of its hugely popular messaging software this week, adding support for Windows 10 Mobile, along with some other new features.

But a popular feature that began on Windows Phones will soon be available on another smartphone platform: Cyanogen OS. Microsoft’s digital ‘personal assistant’ has already made the leap from Windows Phone 8.1 to Windows 10, with a beta now available for Android, and a release on the cards for iOS too.

But Cyanogen’s CEO said this week that Microsoft is already working with his company to ‘deeply integrate’ Cortana into Cyanogen OS, essentially make it a part of the operating system. This would be in stark contrast to the Android version, where Cortana is downloaded as an app with a few ‘hooks’ into the OS.

It’s now been one month since the last Windows 10 Mobile Insider Preview, build 10512, was released – and given that the OS is now weeks away from launch, and still less than stable, that’s a little bit alarming. On Wednesday, Microsoft’s Gabe Aul hinted that new build 10536 was a candidate for release, and on Thursday, he asked the Insider community if it should be released, albeit with a known Store-related bug.

The community responded, and Aul said it would be released on Friday. However, on Friday, he revealed that Microsoft had discovered a show-stopping last-minute bug in 10536, which would prevent future builds from installing correctly.

So, build 10536 has now been scrubbed, but a new build – already being tested internally – should arrive next week. However, it appears that some users may have received build 10536 by mistake.

Neowin reporter Muhammad Jarir Kanji delivered his first impressions of the new Skype Universal app experience on Windows 10 Mobile this week. Microsoft is attempting to provide an augmented Skype experience in the new OS, integrating Skype-related tasks into standalone Phone, Messaging and Video communications apps.

Details emerged this week of new UI changes and tweaks, including revised animations, which are expected to appear in the next major update for Windows 10 PCs, known as ‘Threshold Wave 2’.

Image via Windows Blog Italia

One feature that some Windows 10 users continue to mourn the loss of is Media Center, which is no longer supported in the new OS. However, if you just can’t live without it, there is a way to reinstall it – unofficially, of course.

Plenty of new Windows 10 devices have been unveiled in recent weeks – from high-end all-in-ones and mighty gaming notebooks, to smartphones, pocket-sized mini-computers, and even a new modular PC. But have any of them caught your eye? We asked our readers if they’re planning to buy a new Windows 10 device – join in the discussion, and have your say!

Windows 10 is now pre-installed on Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 in the United States, where students can currently purchase the device with up to $300 off its regular price.

And in yet another surprise announcement this week, Microsoft revealed that Dell, HP and other partners will soon begin selling its Surface Pro tablets to their business customers, as well as offering their own third-party support for the devices.

Notably, the press release also appeared to offer quite a strong hint about when we can expect the new Surface Pro 4 to go on sale.

But while Dell will be selling Surface Pro tablets, it looks like it’s also building a Surface competitor of its own, featuring some pretty high-end specs. The XPS 12 tablet will reportedly feature Intel’s latest Skylake processors, up to 10 hours of battery life, backlit keyboard with precision touchpad, and a 12-inch display with 4K/Ultra HD (3840x2160px) resolution.

And Dell is apparently building a new version of its Venue 8 Pro tablet too, which will launch with Windows 10 onboard. Featuring an 8-inch Full HD/WUXGA (1920x1200px) display and optional 4G LTE connectivity, as well as stylus and Windows Hello support, the device will likely be aimed primarily at business customers.

Microsoft will soon invite the seven million Insiders who have been testing Windows 10 to try out new enterprise features in the OS, ahead of their general release to its corporate customers.

Microsoft also revealed this week that Office 2016 – which it released for Apple’s Mac range in July – will officially launch for Windows on September 22.

Sadly, Microsoft still hasn’t revealed an exact launch date for its new Xbox One user experience, powered by Windows 10 – but the company did say a few days ago that it will roll out to those on its Xbox Preview program “over the next couple of weeks”.

As our journey through the week’s news comes to an end, be sure to check out our review of the Tronsmart Ara X5. Neowin’s Timi Cantisano put the low-cost Windows 10 mini-PC through its paces, and found that the device isn’t ideally suited to work, “but excels for play”.


The week ahead

Stay tuned to Neowin in the coming days, as Microsoft (hopefully!) rolls out its new Windows 10 Mobile Insider Preview. We’re likely to hear about more new Windows 10 devices on the way, and perhaps a little more on the new Nexus flagship phones that will be announced later this month.

With the rollout of Apple’s iOS 9 and watchOS 2 on Wednesday, September 16, and the usual mix of other rumors, revelations, official announcements and unofficial insights, it should be another big week across the tech world.


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!

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