7 Days: A week of Microsoft's Galaxy, Windows 10 anticipation, and a disappointing Moment

7 Days is a weekly roundup 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.

What a week! From big announcements to juicy rumors, and some truly shocking surprises, it’s been a rollercoaster ride around the tech world… but fear not, for 7 Days is here again to make sure you didn’t miss any of the week’s top stories. There’s a lot to get through, so let’s waste no more time!

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The US House of Representatives agreed to the contents of a bill approved by the Senate last week, which will scrap FCC rules to protect broadband users' privacy. The bill will allow internet service providers to sell users' web browsing history and other personal data without their explicit consent.

Twitter made a significant change, removing @mentions from the 140-character count in tweets. It follows a similar move last year in which pics, videos, polls and quoted tweets were removed from the count, allowing users to say more within the existing character limit.

A South Korean regulator found that Qualcomm has been pressuring Samsung to restrict sales of its Exynos processors to other manufacturers, unfairly restricting competition to protect sales of its own Snapdragon chips.

Meanwhile, another chipmaker has been accused of "unacceptable and unethical" behavior. SemiAccurate slammed Intel for allegedly misleading the press by withholding key data about its new Optane memory technology.

There was exciting news in India, where the country's first 1Gbps broadband service was launched - but there is a 1TB monthly cap on downloads and uploads.

Over in the US, billionaire-entrepreneur Elon Musk has launched a new company called Neuralink, which plans to improve the human mind with digital technology. He believes that developing artificially enhanced brains is a necessity for the long-term survival of our species.

In somewhat more mundane - but still welcome - news, Apple released the latest updates to its operating systems on Monday - iOS 10.3, macOS 10.12.4 Sierra, watchOS 3.2 and tvOS 10.2 - bringing a handful of new features and improvements.

Google announced that its Home speaker hub will launch in the UK next week, priced at £129.

But there was bad news for Google, which has lost the support of over 250 major advertisers following YouTube's placement of their ads in videos posted by extremist groups.

Google began informing users this week that it's preparing to launch a "new look" for the sign-in experience for its services, which is expected to show up "in the next few weeks".

Almost two months have passed since Google announced the release of Android Wear 2.0, and said it would come to existing devices "in the coming weeks". Since then, not a single device had received the update until this week, when it began rolling out for three devices.

However, Google then slammed on the brakes on that rollout after discovering a "last-minute bug". Android Wear 2.0 had already been delayed by several months.

Android co-founder Andy Rubin - who left Google a few years ago - teased an upcoming handset from his company, Essential. The handset, which appears to have a bezel-less design - as is the big trend these days - was confirmed by Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt to run Android.

Photos and key specs were revealed of another new Android handset this week. The new Moto X is expected to be officially unveiled in the next few months.

Fresh details also emerged on the HTC U, another new flagship on the way following the launch of the U Ultra earlier this year. It sounds like the U Ultra should have the superior specs, but confusingly, it seems the U will be the better device, with a more powerful Snapdragon 835 processor, and touch-sensitive bezels offering a new way to interact with the OS.

The new BlackBerry KEYone has been delayed, following its unveiling at the Mobile World Congress a few weeks ago. The Android handset, which features a fixed QWERTY keyboard below its 4.5-inch display, was due to go on sale in April.

Seven months after its release, Android 7.0 Nougat is on just 2.8% of the platform's active devices so far. Its long, slow rollout continued this week:

Unfortunately, T-Mobile US raised the hopes of HTC One M8 owners on Monday when it said the Nougat update was "now available" for that device. It wasn't, and the carrier later said it was a mistake.

More devices received the latest Android security patches this week too:

If it had been revealed a few days later, you might have thought this was an April Fools' Day joke. Samsung confirmed that it will sell refurbished units of its Galaxy Note7 - the fiery flagship that it recalled, twice, following a series of battery fires last year.

But the big announcement of the week was the official unveiling of Samsung's new Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ flagships:

The Galaxy S8 offers multiple security features, including facial recognition, an iris scanner, a fingerprint sensor, and more 'conventional' methods for unlocking the device, such as PIN and pattern unlock. However, it seems the facial recognition feature can be fooled into unlocking the device using just a photo.

This isn't an April Fools' Day joke either: Microsoft announced on March 30 that it will be selling Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ 'Microsoft Edition' handsets at its retail stores. It said that "when the devices are unboxed and connected to Wi-Fi", they will apply a "customization" that includes its Office, OneDrive, Cortana and Outlook apps, among others.

The announcement was met with surprise and incredulity among many fans of Windows phones, with some claiming that it demonstrates Microsoft's lack of focus on the Windows 10 Mobile platform.

All of Microsoft's Windows phones have now reached the end of their retail lives. Two days before the Galaxy S8 event, Microsoft removed the last of its Lumia handsets from its UK store.

Pre-orders opened on the Microsoft Store in the UK for the Porsche Design Book One, a Surface Book-style Windows 10 2-in-1 that Microsoft describes as the "convertible of your dreams". Priced at £2,395, it has a detachable display, Pen support, and the latest 7th-generation Intel Core i7 processors - but bizarrely, there's no discrete GPU option.

Since February, when Microsoft announced significant price increases on its Surface Book and Pro 4 in the UK, not a day has gone by when the company hasn't been selling them with some sort of deal available. This week, it launched yet another promotional offer, reducing their prices to the same level as before it raised them.

On Wednesday, Microsoft opened pre-orders for its Surface Book with Performance Base in 13 new markets around the world.

It also opened pre-orders for its high-end 28-inch all-in-one PC, the Surface Studio, and the Surface Dial interaction tool, in three new countries.

In unwelcome news for Microsoft, the company is being sued by people alleging that Windows 10 has "destroyed" their data and damaged their PCs. The lawsuit accuses Microsoft of having "failed to exercise reasonable care in designing, formulating, and manufacturing the Windows 10 upgrade and placing it into the stream of commerce."

With the release of the Windows 10 Creators Update fast approaching, Stardock released a new version of its popular customization software for the OS, WindowBlinds. The 10.6 update includes a wide range of improvements for the latest Windows 10 version.

The Windows 10 Creators Update is coming very soon indeed. Microsoft announced that it will be released via Windows Update for PCs starting on April 11, but you'll be able to install it manually from April 5.

Microsoft published ISOs for build 15063 - the 'RTM' build for the Creators Update - along with its latest SDK for the same build.

Windows 10 Mobile devices will get the Creators Update from April 25 - but from Microsoft's careful phrasing, it sounds like there may be some limitations on which handsets will actually be able to install it.

Microsoft also revealed the first details about the Creators Update for Windows 10 Team, the specialized version of the OS that runs on its Surface Hub collaboration device.

Microsoft is continuing to test bug fixes and other minor improvements for cumulative updates that will accompany the release of the Creators Update next month.

Build 15063.11 was released for PCs in the Fast and Slow rings on Thursday, while the Release Preview ring got its first taste of build 15063 for PCs on the same day too.

Windows 10 Mobile build 15063.2 was released to the Insider Fast ring on Wednesday, quickly followed by the Slow ring.

By the way, Microsoft revealed that there are now over ten million Windows Insiders around the world. It had previously stated there were seven million Insiders back in September 2015.

Now, here's something that raised a few eyebrows this week. A listing was spotted on the Microsoft Mexico website for an unannounced device called the 'Lumia 651' - identical in appearance to the Lumia 650, but with a larger display.

Adding to the mystery, several days after it was widely reported around the world, the product listing remains on Microsoft's site.

In the UK, HP seems to have completely lost the plot when it comes to pricing its Elite x3 Windows 10 Mobile flagship. The company has increased and decreased its price by up to 12% seven times since December, with no apparent logic behind its decisions.

In the US, HP is now offering almost $200 off a bundle that includes the Elite x3, Desk Dock, Wireless Charger, and more.

Remember WhartonBrooks? Back in August, it announced that it was planning to launch a new Windows 10 Mobile device in the autumn, promising that it would be "the most disruptive since the advent of the smartphone in 2000". It added that it would bring "new products and services that will radically change the mobile computing industry".

But in September, it postponed an event it was due to hold at a Microsoft Store, saying that it needed to "align schedules" with all the partners who wanted to join in. That event was never rescheduled. In October, it said that its handset had been delayed due to "regulatory hurdles".

On Friday, WhartonBrooks finally revealed its new device, the Cerulean Moment. To say it doesn't live up to the incredible hype and the lofty promises that the company made is a huge understatement. The Moment has specs that are comparable - and inferior in some ways - to the HTC One A9, which was unveiled in October 2015, including a Snapdragon 617 processor, and a 720p display. According to Windows Central, the company's earlier claims about disruption and innovation referred not to the handset itself, but to Windows 10 Mobile's PC-like Continuum feature, which has been available on other premium Windows phones since 2015.

And to top it all off, WhartonBrooks is relying on a crowdfunding campaign, aiming to raise $1.1 million for the handset's planned launch in August, by which time its specs will be almost two years behind the industry's best, even for a mid-range $299 device.

Moving on...

Ride-sharing service Lyft - an alternative to Uber in many cities - launched its app for phones and PCs in the Windows Store.

Telegram updated its app for Windows phones with an overhauled interface, and some new features too.

However, on March 31, Facebook ended support for its main app on all Windows Phones, as well as for Windows 8 and 8.1 PCs. The Messenger app on Windows Phone 8 and 8.1 is also no longer supported.

And in more unwelcome news, Zendesk will remove its Windows phone app from the Windows Store next week, having already ended support for it. The company said that Windows phones accounted for "a fraction of a percent" of those who use its services.

The latest update to Microsoft's Groove Music app is now available for Insiders in the Fast ring, and includes hints of the upcoming 'Project Neon' design refresh for Windows 10.

A new Office Insider Preview made its way to Windows desktop users this week, bringing various improvements. Microsoft also released a new Office Insider build for iOS, adding some handy new features.

You can find out about this month's improvements to Office 365 here too.

Microsoft opened registrations for its Ignite 2017 conference, which will be held in Orlando, Florida, from September 25 to 29.

Microsoft's President and Chief Legal Officer, Brad Smith, said in an interview that the company "will not help any government hack or attack any customer anywhere". His comments came as pressure intensifies on tech companies to do more to help governments deal with terror threats, in the wake of last month's attack in London in which four people, including a police officer, were killed.

The company later defended its position after an ugly, and somewhat misleading, article was published by The Sun newspaper, accusing Microsoft of "refusing the [British] Home Secretary's demand for more help on terror". Microsoft said that it had responded in under 30 minutes to a request from UK authorities for email information to aid in their investigation of the attack, and had "provided the information that was sought".

While Microsoft prepares for the release of its Windows 10 Creators Update - also known as Version 1703 - for PCs and phones this month, it has already begun its rollout for the Xbox One and Xbox One S. The update includes an updated user interface, integrated Beam game streaming, and many other new features and improvements.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is already working on a further Version 1704 update for its Xbox consoles, with the same primary build number as the Creators Update. Build 15063.2009 was released for Xbox Insiders in the Alpha ring on Friday, while build 15063.2006 made its way to the Beta ring.

Those in the Beta ring also got their first chance to try out the new Xbox Game Pass. Launching this spring, it will provide access to over 100 games for $10 a month.

Far Cry 3 became the latest Xbox 360 game to join the list of those playable on the Xbox One, through the Backward Compatibility program.

Ryse: Son of Rome and Darksiders are now available free to Xbox Live Gold subscribers under the Games with Gold program.

Cities: Skylines Xbox One Edition was announced in February, and it's now confirmed to be launching on Microsoft's consoles on April 21.

The first developer units of Microsoft's upcoming Project Scorpio console are already out in the wild, but it seems they're not yet operating at their maximum potential. That's apparently deliberate, as Microsoft is gradually ramping up their performance, with the aim of allowing developers to run the console at full-throttle by June.

When the console is officially unveiled, Microsoft will showcase its performance with games such as Forza 7, Red Dead Redemption 2 and a new Call of Duty title, among others.

The next game in the much-loved Call of Duty series is expected to return to its roots, set in World War II.

Another greatly anticipated game is Destiny 2, which now has its first official trailer, along with a release date and details of pre-order options.

Telltale Games announced details of the first episode of its new game, Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy.

And Microsoft announced its new Minecraft 1.1 update for the Windows 10 and Pocket editions, also known as The Discovery Update.

Sony released an update for its PlayStation 4 Pro console, bringing support for playing 4K videos stored in mp4 format on a USB stick or home server, through its Media Player app.

And Twitch updated its game-streaming service with support for 1080p streaming at 60 frames per second.

But our odyssey across the tech world ends this week on a delicious note in Europe, where Domino's Pizza announced that it will start deliveries using autonomous 'Starship Robots'.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a New Yorker on the way with some Strippers on the side. Story of my life.


Bonus content

Before we wrap things up for another week, let me first highlight a few extra bits around the site that I hope you’ll enjoy reading.

Rich Woods put the new Logitech BRIO webcam through its paces - and he certainly didn't regret doing so. In fact, he declared it "the best webcam you can buy". Be sure to check out his detailed review.

Rich also shared his first impressions of the new LG G6 along with an unboxing video of the stylish new Android flagship.

And finally, if you're curious to see some of the new features in the next major version of Google's ubiquitous OS, take a look at Rich's hands-on video with the Android O Developer Preview.


Stay tuned to Neowin in the days ahead for what’s sure to be another exciting week, filled with official news, lots of updates, and plenty of insights from around the world of technology.

For now, though, there’s lots more to read across the site – including all sorts of interesting discussions over on our forums.

From all of us
on the Neowin team,
have a great weekend!

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