7 Days: A week of Windows 10 delights, Android updates, and unconventional porn

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.

If you were stuffing your face with turkey, pie or other delicious treats this week for Thanksgiving, we certainly hope you had a good one!

Of course, as many of our lovely readers all over the world know only too well, the arrival of the holiday season often means that the pace of news slows down – but there’s been no sign of that so far. The news just kept on coming this week, and as ever, 7 Days is here to walk you through what’s been happening.

Not actually porn - but definitely 'non-conventional'

Our journey around the tech world begins this week in the UK, where the government is attempting to crack down on the seemingly limitless availability of online porn, in the name of protecting children. Web users in the UK will be banned from accessing sites portraying ‘non-conventional’ sex acts - whatever that means.

Some of the UK’s best audio content may soon be available around the world. The BBC’s Director-General said that he wants to develop a global on-demand platform for its radio content to “create a Netflix of the spoken word”.

Netflix movies and TV shows can now be streamed at 4K resolution in your browser… as long as that browser is Microsoft Edge on Windows 10 – and even then, it’s only supported on PCs with Intel’s latest 7th-generation ‘Kaby Lake’ processors.

Google’s artificial intelligence system, DeepMind, has been watching a ton of TV shows lately, to help improve its lip-reading capabilities, which are now significantly better than those of human lip-readers.

Google is serving up a great opportunity to binge-watch some top-notch shows, offering a free HBO Now subscription with purchases of its Chromecast streaming dongles – but you’ll have to be quick to grab that deal.

Google has been warning some high-profile users – including numerous journalists – that “government-backed attackers” may have been trying to gain access to their accounts.

Banks have also been encouraged to be especially vigilant after details emerged of malware attacks targeting ATMs, causing them to “spit money”.

But in rather unexpected news, it was revealed this week that a 14-year-old girl, who died in October after suffering from a rare cancer, won the legal right to have her body cryogenically preserved, in the hope that medical science will advance to the point that she can be revived and cured in the future.

Moving on to storage of a very different kind… On Wednesday, Synology announced the FS3017, a 24-bay rack-mountable NAS device. It’s entirely flash-based, and features two hexa-core Intel Xeon processors, and 64GB of RAM – but it’s certainly not priced for consumers (!!).

Last week, Qualcomm announced its new flagship-class mobile system-on-a-chip, the Snapdragon 835, and this week, its specs – and those of the upper-mid-range Snapdragon 660 – apparently emerged. And as we revealed this week, Qualcomm’s MSM8998 SoC, which many assumed was the Snapdragon 830, is actually the 835.

In the future, you may be able to just tap your phone on a charging plate to get it up to full battery

Mobile devices keep getting more powerful, but battery life never really seems to improve much. However, researchers at the University of Central Florida have developed a type of battery that could last for an entire week after being charged for just a few seconds.

Image via iFixit

Meanwhile, Apple announced a global program to provide free battery replacements for some of its iPhone 6s handsets that have been affected by “unexpected shutdown issues”.

And LG has been offering full refunds to some Nexus 5X owners whose handsets were plagued by a ‘boot loop’ issue after upgrading to Android 7.0 Nougat.

Xiaomi’s Mi MIX handset – which features a stunning design with ultra-thin bezels, and a 6.4-inch display that extends into the curved corners of the device – has been spotted in white, after the black model sold out in seconds.

The Mi MIX is also Xiaomi’s first device to come with Microsoft’s Cortana digital assistant pre-installed, after the Chinese manufacturer began pre-loading Office apps earlier this year.

Last week, security researchers found that low-cost Android phones from US hardware brand BLU were sending personal data to Chinese servers every 72 hours. New research was published this week, showing that around 3 million Android phones - including many from BLU - carry a dangerous rootkit that could allow hackers to install malicious apps with elevated permissions.

A report earlier this week claimed that HTC was preparing to ditch its struggling phone business - but the company said it "strongly denied" that rumor.

In fact, it launched two new handsets this week. The Desire 650 is remarkably similar to the Desire 630 it unveiled nine months ago. Curiously, HTC avoided revealing which processor the new handset has got - which probably means it has the same ancient Snapdragon 400 SoC as the Desire 630.

It also announced the HTC 10 evo, an international version of the high-end Bolt that it launched in the US this month - and it too has an outdated processor, the Snapdragon 810.

HTC announced the start of the Android 7.0 Nougat rollout for its 10 flagship - but that wasn't the only device to get a fresh taste of that Nougat goodness this week:

...and on Wednesday, Google released its final Developer Preview of Android 7.1.1 Nougat, which will begin rolling out to some devices next month.

However, the company also announced that its much older Android 2.3 Gingerbread and 3.0 Honeycomb OS versions will soon lose Google Play services support.

HP's support for its new Windows 10 Mobile flagship has been pretty good so far. The company delivered its third firmware update for the Elite x3, bringing a wide range of improvements and fixes.

The Elite x3 went on sale a couple of months ago, and with the Black Friday shopping extravaganza, it received its first big promotional offer this week. Until Monday, US buyers can get the Elite x3 with a Desk Dock and notebook-style Lap Dock, along with a case and screen protector, for $312 below full price.

For the third time this year, Microsoft is giving away a free Lumia 950 (worth $399) with its $499 Windows 10 Mobile flagship, the Lumia 950 XL, in the US. It's also offering a free Display Dock, usually priced at $99, as part of the deal.

Over in the UK, the Lumia 950 XL's price has been falling since before it even went on sale. On Thursday, Microsoft cut its price to £289, including a free Display Dock.

Back in the US, Microsoft slashed $50 off its impressive Lumia 650 Dual SIM, reducing its price to just $99 unlocked.

Surface Pro 4 buyers in the US are being offered $200 off one of the Intel Core i5 models, along with $50 off a Type Cover.

And in the UK, Microsoft launched its best deal so far on the Pro 4, offering 30% off its entry-level model, and throwing in a free Type Cover worth £109.99.

Those who pre-ordered Microsoft's stunning new Surface Studio all-in-one desktop PC, priced from $2,999, were told to expect delivery from December 15 - but shipments began earlier than expected this week.

Finnish company Eve launched the Indiegogo campaign to crowdfund its 'Surface-killer' Windows 10 device on Monday - and it smashed through its funding goal in less than an hour.

It looks like Lenovo is planning to take on the Surface Pro 4 with a new premium Windows 10 tablet of its own. The Miix 520 will reportedly feature up to 16GB RAM, 1TB of storage and Intel's newest 7th-gen processors.

Lenovo's presence in the PC market may be about to get even bigger. The company is reportedly in talks with Samsung to acquire its PC business.

There were no new Windows 10 Insider Preview builds this week due to the Thanksgiving break, but Microsoft did release Windows 10 SDK Preview build 14965 on Monday.

The latest data from AdDuplex indicates that just 15% of Windows phones in the US are running Windows 10 Mobile, which is hardly surprising, given that Microsoft has inexplicably made almost no effort to encourage users to upgrade. You can check out further insights about Windows 10 usage on phones and PCs here.

With Microsoft's share of the global smartphone market dropping to just 0.6% this summer, and its current Windows 10 Mobile devices approaching the end of their retail lives, you might well be wondering if the company plans to give up on phones. But its CEO, Satya Nadella, reaffirmed its commitment to the phone market this week, saying that the company is focused on creating "the most ultimate mobile device".

No prizes for elegant phrasing there...

Indeed, it seems Microsoft is in it for the long haul, and fresh details were revealed on Monday about plans to boost its mobile OS in late 2017 with a major new feature. The company is expected to bring integrated x86 app emulation to Windows 10 Mobile devices with its Redstone 3 update next year.

Microsoft is reportedly planning substantial user interface changes to Windows 10 as part of the Redstone 3 update too. These UI improvements, developed under the codename 'Project NEON', are expected to focus primarily on adapting Windows 10 for use on mixed reality (AR and VR) headsets, but some of the changes are likely to have an impact on UI design across other Windows 10 devices too.

Mixed reality is going to become a much bigger part of Windows 10 next year when Microsoft brings the Windows Holographic shell to the OS with its Creators Update. Microsoft said recently that it's been working with major manufacturers to bring more affordable virtual reality headsets to Windows 10, priced as low as $299 - and this week, we learned about some of the minimum PC specs required to power the Windows Holographic VR experience for those headsets.

Microsoft Research has been looking at ways to bring high-quality VR to mobile devices too; indeed, as we recently discussed in a feature article, the company's Research division has a broad remit to explore and develop new technologies. Microsoft has been investing in research into quantum computing for years now - and this week, it said it's now applying that knowledge to build a quantum computing device.

Microsoft's productivity suite got a big boost on Wednesday, when it announced that Office 365 has launched in ten more markets around the world - and it's coming to 97 more markets over the next twelve months.

And it looks like Microsoft's proposed acquisition of professional networking platform LinkedIn will soon get regulatory approval in the European Union, after the company agreed to various 'concessions' to allay concerns from antitrust regulators.

Among Microsoft's many Black Friday deals, the company has also been offering huge discounts in the Windows Store, with savings of up to 93% on various apps, movies, TV shows, albums and games.

Of course, it wouldn't be Black Friday without some big Xbox deals too. In the US, Microsoft is offering $50 off the Xbox One S, along with a free $25 gift code, and an additional free game.

Over in the UK, you can get an Xbox One S Minecraft bundle for just £199.99, including a free copy of Forza Horizon 3.

On Tuesday, Microsoft announced its new Games with Gold for December, as well as three new Xbox 360 titles to join its Xbox One Backward Compatibility Program.

And joining a long list of preview programs from Microsoft, the company announced the launch of the Sea of Thieves Insider Program this week too.

There's plenty of rivalry between gaming platforms, but there's also a great deal of respect. Xbox chief Phil Spencer spoken warmly ofhis love for Nintendo's "fantastic [games] and the memories that they have instilled in so many of us", adding that he'd "love to see Mario on Xbox".

Microsoft strengthened its cross-platform gaming offering on Wednesday, as it launched its Solitaire Collection on Android and iOS, including Xbox Live integration.

But our odyssey across the tech world ends this week with the extraordinary story of a man who dropped his iPhone 4 into an icy lake, only for it to be found a year later - and somehow, it still worked.

That will no doubt come as quite a surprise to anyone who's dropped their iPhone into a toilet.


Global giveaway!

With Thanksgiving behind us, we kicked off the countdown to Christmas with the first in a series of festive giveaways. We're offering our readers around the world the chance to win a Microsoft Lumia 650 smartphone, Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard, and a whopping 200GB SanDisk Ultra Class 10 microSDXC card!

There are loads of ways for you to enter the contest, so head over to the giveaway page... and good luck! :-)


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.

First up, Rich Woods published his review of the Elite x3, HP's mighty new Windows 10 Mobile flagship. HP promotes it as a '3-in-1' device - but does it live up to the promise of one device for all of your needs?

Shreyas Gandhe shared his review of the UMi Max, describing it as a "good stock Android phone with minimum frills. It seems there's a lot to like about it, including its build quality, solid performance and good battery life - but it definitely has some weaknesses.

And finally, Christopher White considered President-elect Donald Trump's desire for Apple to build more of its devices in the United States, asking our readers how much more - if anything - they'd be willing to pay for Apple devices to make that happen.

Cast your vote in the poll and have your say!


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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