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.
It's been another thrilling week across the tech world, with a seemingly endless torrent of news, insights and spicy rumors pouring in at a relentless pace. But as always, 7 Days is here to brief you on what's been happening, with a handy walkthrough of the week's top tech news.
Our journey begins this week in the United States, where AT&T revealed that it had quietly terminated its 2G mobile network at the beginning of the year. Bad news for those still using their original iPhones.
Shortly before Donald J Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, the Electronic Frontier Foundation set out its agenda to fight for the rights of citizens under the new administration, as they believe that privacy, digital freedoms, and accountability over mass surveillance are all under threat.
Meanwhile, a report published this week highlighted the threat of ISIS, terrorists of the so-called Islamic State, using commercial drones as delivery mechanisms to drop bombs and grenades on targets remotely.
China is planning to build its first prototype of an exascale supercomputer this year, capable of a quintillion operations per second. (That's a lot of zeroes.)
As computing power grows, and computing devices become ever more ubiquitous, the problem of e-waste is continuing to increase. The United Nations highlighted the problem this week, noting that e-waste in east and southeast Asia has risen by 63% in the last five years.
Over in the UK, the Raspberry Pi Foundation announced a new version of its hugely popular micro-computer. The Compute Model 3 is ten times more powerful than the original version, and includes 1GB of RAM and a 1.2GHz processor, but costs no more than $30.
Earlier this week, BT announced a new 'junk voicemail' service for landline phones to tackle the rise of nuisance calls, calling it the first of its kind in the UK. Rival service provider TalkTalk later told Neowin that BT's claim was nonsense, and that TalkTalk been providing a near-identical service for the last three years.
BT then went on to give its customers the middle finger, as it announced another wave of phone and broadband price increases - for the third time in just 16 months. One consumer telecoms advice service described the price rises, and BT's weak justification for them, as "absurd".
There was more bad news for Brits as Apple raised its App Store prices by 25% due to the weakness of the pound sterling against the US dollar, which followed the UK's decision to exit the European Union in its 'Brexit' referendum last year.
Apple is reportedly preparing to launch new 12-inch MacBooks with Intel's latest 7th-generation processors and up to 16GB of RAM, while the MacBook Pro line will also get a processor refresh, and the option of 32GB of 'desktop-class' RAM.
It's been a dreadful week for processor giant Qualcomm. Apple is suing the company, claiming that it has 'withheld' nearly $1 billion in payments "as retaliation for responding truthfully to law enforcement agencies investigating them".
It followed a probe by the US Federal Trade Commission, which led the FTC to announce that it is suing Qualcomm for alleged anti-competitive practices and 'bullying' tactics against manufacturers in the mobile industry.
After the collapse of Cyanogen in recent weeks, its spiritual successor, Lineage OS, outlined its plans to bring its operating system to over 80 devices, promising weekly updates with support for Android Marshmallow- and Nougat-capable devices.
It looks like the first two devices to launch with Google's new Android Wear 2.0 OS on board will be from LG. The new smartwatches are expected to debut alongside the official launch of the OS next month.
Just two months after its launch, Google has slashed 38% off the price of its Daydream View virtual reality headset. The extraordinary length of the discount - around five weeks - has led to speculation that sales of the device have been less than stellar.
Android One is Google's initiative to offer capable and well-specced smartphones at low prices. The program was initially intended for emerging markets, but Google later admitted that it had "not delivered to expectations". Now, it seems that the company is planning to launch Android One in the United States.
Earlier this week, ZTE announced a beta program for its ZMax Pro, apparently preparing to upgrade the handset from Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow to Android 7.0 Nougat. But the company later clarified that it does "not have any plans to push Android Nougat" to the device, and said the beta is intended to help it improve its existing software.
But plenty of other devices are getting a taste of that sweet Nougat goodness:
- Android 7.0 heads to Huawei's Honor 8
- Nvidia Shield TV gets Nougat update, including 4K support
- Months late, Nougat available for unlocked HTC One A9
- HTC 10 and One M9 will get Android 7.0 in Europe this month
- Sony rolls out Android 7.0 to the Xperia Z5 family, the Xperia Z4 Tablet, and the Xperia Z3+
- Lenovo Moto Z to get Nougat next month; Z Play upgrade coming in March
- Android 7.0 reaches Galaxy S7 and S7 edge in the UK
Samsung also announced the list of its Galaxy devices which are confirmed to get the Android 7.0 update in the first half of this year.
Curiously, some Galaxy S7 and S7 edge owners have reported that after installing the Nougat update, their screen resolution had defaulted from Quad HD to the lower Full HD. No need to panic though - there's an easy fix for that.
The Galaxy Note7, of course, won't be upgraded to Android 7.0, as Samsung has recalled all of those devices around the world. The company will finally announce the findings of its investigation into the issues that caused some of its Note7 handsets to catch fire and explode, in a global livestream on January 23.
Sources say that Samsung is expected to reveal that the problem was related to the devices' batteries.
I'm shocked. Shocked.
Samsung might be interested in new technology developed by researchers at Stanford University, with 'self-extinguishing' capabilities that can automatically put out a lithium-ion battery fire in just 0.4 seconds.
Meanwhile, Samsung launched its new Galaxy C7 Pro, a premium mid-range handset with a Snapdragon 625 SoC, 4GB RAM, 64GB storage... and a liquid cooling system. For some reason, the device will also ship with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, rather than Nougat.
HMD Global's first Nokia-branded Android phone went on sale on Thursday, and sold out within just one minute. HMD said that the "next exciting chapter in the Nokia consumer story" will be revealed next month at Mobile World Congress.
Microsoft was awarded a patent this week for a foldable mobile device that can open up into a larger tablet-style device, fuelling rampant speculation over its 'Surface phone' plans. It also requested the renewal of a 2010 patent for a device with multiple displays that can separate into two separate devices.
It's pretty obvious that Microsoft's Windows phone range is reaching the end of the line, particularly when you see examples like its UK store, where every Lumia model has been out of stock for weeks, and even months in one case.
And yet, after all stocks of its Windows 10 Mobile range were depleted in the US - and its Lumia 650 was even removed from the store completely - the company suddenly found some more stock of its devices earlier this week.
Acer's Windows 10 Mobile flagship, the Liquid Jade Primo, has also been removed from the Microsoft Store in the US, just six months after going on sale there.
Alcatel's flagship-class IDOL 4S with Windows 10 launched exclusively on T-Mobile in November, but received an 8% price cut last week. This week, an unlocked model went on sale on the Microsoft Store in the US, followed by Canada a few days later.
Almost three months after they were unveiled in the US, Microsoft's Surface Mouse and Surface Keyboard went on sale in the UK and Germany this week. However, there's no sign yet of the new Surface Ergonomic Keyboard in those markets.
And amid rumors that it's planning to launch new versions of both devices in the coming months, Microsoft slashed 15% off select Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 models in the UK. It's been offering similarly chunky discounts on the two devices in the US for several weeks.
Microsoft released its first firmware update for its new Surface Studio all-in-one desktop PC on Tuesday - but as usual, it didn't bother to tell anyone what was in the update until over 24 hours later. It was a similar story for the Surface Pro 4's latest firmware update, with a changelog arriving long after the rollout began.
Microsoft also released a new Windows 10 Insider Preview, build 15014, for PCs and phones in the Fast ring. Thankfully, Microsoft is much better at detailing release notes for its Windows previews; you can find the fixes and known issues for PCs here, and those for phones are available here.
However, there was some less welcome news in its announcement. The Apps Corner feature will be removed from Windows 10 Mobile in the Creators Update; and the promised My People experience - which was touted as a major feature at its Creators Update announcement event last year - has been delayed until the Redstone 3 update arrives in late 2017.
Intriguingly, Microsoft is also bringing e-books to the Windows Store.
Microsoft is also said to be working on a single, unified, 'adaptive shell' for Windows 10, which will be able to scale the OS across all types of device, rather than developing and maintaining separate shells for Windows 10 Mobile, Xbox One, and other devices.
The new Composable Shell isn't expected to arrive for a while, but it certainly raises some interesting questions about Microsoft's plans for Windows 10's future.
However, Microsoft attracted criticism this week, as it emerged that the company is now inserting pop-up ads - masquerading as 'user tips' - for its products in Windows 10.
On Thursday, Microsoft announced that it will end its support for the original Windows 10 release, Version 1507, in March. It's also bringing the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, Version 1607, to the Volume Licensing Service Center later this month.
After launching its Windows 10 Enterprise subscriptions last year, priced from $7 per user per year, Microsoft is now allowing those companies to "upgrade their Windows 7 and 8.1 PCs and devices to Windows 10 at no additional cost."
The timing of that announcement was interesting, coming shortly after a Microsoft blog post encouraging businesses to upgrade to Windows 10, as it stated that Windows 7 "does not meet the requirements of modern technology, nor the high security requirements of IT departments".
Microsoft highlighted upcoming changes to its Office 365 platform in the coming months, some of which "may require admin action". It also announced new Office 365 features to support US Government Community Cloud Customers.
It finally brought Office Lens to Apple's iPad too, as well as integrating Office Lens functionality into its productivity suite on Android devices, along with other new features.
Microsoft announced its acquisition of Swedish company Simplygon, to boost its '3D for everyone' ambitions.
It officially launched its HoloLens mixed reality headset in Japan, while it emerged that HoloLens has also been in testing with the Royal Australian Air Force.
Fitness-tracking app Runtastic became the latest to ditch its support for Windows phones, citing the platform's low number of users.
And Minecraft - which is owned by Microsoft's Mojang division - is also ending its development on Windows phones.
And there was bad news for owners of Microsoft's Band 2 as well. Microsoft will no longer support use of its wearable device with Cortana on Android devices - a feature that it introduced just seven months ago.
Earlier this month, two prototypes of Razer's stunning triple-display gaming notebook, Project Valerie, were stolen from its booth at CES 2017. The stolen devices briefly appeared on sale in China, priced at $21,700.
If you're a fan of both gaming notebooks and games consoles, you might be interested in taking a closer look at this rather wonderful Xbox One S laptop.
Last week, Microsoft announced details of its Xbox One Creators Update. A few days ago, we got our first glimpse of the changes on the way in a short video.
A range of new games launched on the Xbox One this week, including Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Mega Battle, I Am Bread, and more. You can find out about more the new arrivals here.
Microsoft also added three new Xbox 360 games to the list of those playable on the Xbox One through its backward compatibility program.
Capcom confirmed that Resident Evil VII: Biohazard will support Microsoft's Xbox Play Anywhere program, so you'll be able to buy the game once and play it on both your Xbox One and Windows 10 PC.
And Xbox Live Gold subscribers can now get Back to the Future: 30th Anniversary Edition with a huge discount, of up to 75%.
The long wait for Super Mario Run on Android devices will soon be at an end. The mobile game will finally come to the Google Play Store in March.
After Nintendo announced launch details of its new Switch hybrid gaming console last week, further details have emerged in recent days:
- Two million units will be ready for launch day
- If you want a Joy-Con Grip that keeps your controllers charged while you use them, you'll have to pay more
- You won't be able to keep that monthly 'free game download'
- There will be no media streaming apps for the Switch
- Switch will let you capture and share screenshots of your gameplay - but not video
One of the most anticipated games for the new Switch console is Super Mario Odyssey, which brings the much-loved character to the metropolis of 'New Donk City'. However, a mash-up parody video has brought Mario to Grand Theft Auto IV's Liberty City, which includes the disturbing sight of the world's most famous plumber in a strip club.
But alas, our journey around the tech world must come to an end - and this week, it does so in spectacular fashion.
An irate customer - who wasn't entirely satisfied with the service she had received at a T-Mobile store in Palm Springs, Florida - returned the day after her initial visit to make her displeasure clear.
However, rather than file a complaint with the manager, she allegedly smashed her car into the store, causing thousands of dollars' worth of damage, and injuring at least two employees.
She told police that she was having a "bad day".
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.
Vlad Dudau published his review of the Elephone S7, an affordable Android handset that... has a few drawbacks. There's certainly a lot to like about the device, but there may be too many downsides to justify buying one.
Shreyas Gandhe shared his review of Xiaomi's Redmi Pro, a high-end handset with dual rear cameras and a whopping ten-core processor. But did the device manage to match its remarkable spec sheet to an impressive performance in the real world?
Robbie Khan put the Belkin Boost Up 15W Wireless Fast Charging Pad through its paces - but if you're considering buying one, you should definitely read his review, or you may end up disappointed...
And Timi Cantisano shared his first impressions of the Honor 6X, which recently launched in the United States. Starting at $249, it certainly looks good on paper, and in the flesh, but what's it like to use?
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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