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7 Days: A week of Windows 10 devices, Surface excitement, and mouse ovaries

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 it’s been. There have been some big announcements, a couple of surprises, and a few juicy rumors... but as ever, 7 Days is here to make sure you're up to speed, and walk you through what’s been happening – so sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

Image: ATSB

Our weekly tech odyssey begins on a flight from Beijing to Melbourne, where - earlier this year - a passenger's Beats headphones exploded while she was using them. This week, Apple declared that the malfunction was not caused by the headphones themselves.

The company blamed the explosion - which left the owner with burns and blisters - on the third-party batteries she had used with the headset, and said it would not compensate her.

Apple is reportedly working on a 'Neural Engine' chip, designed to handle artificial intelligence-related tasks. The new chip could also bring battery life improvements to Apple's devices.

Apple and Nokia dropped lawsuits against each other, after signing a multi-year patent licensing and business collaboration agreement.

HMD Global brought its nostalgia-fuelled Nokia 3310 to the UK on Wednesday. The retro-styled handset is now available to buy there for around £49.99.

Just a year and a half after launching its digital download store in the UK, the BBC is preparing to shut it down. Users won't be able to keep the DRM-protected content they bought, so the BBC is offering cash refunds for all purchases, or an Amazon Video voucher for a higher amount.

Media player software Kodi reached version 17.2 earlier in the week, bringing a fix for an exploit which potentially allowed hackers to take over a device using code embedded in subtitle files. A day later, version 17.3 arrived with further fixes.

Intel announced on Wednesday that it plans to integrate Thunderbolt 3 into future processors. On top of that, the use of the technology will be royalty-free, which should result in faster and wider adoption.

WikiLeaks published details of CIA-created 'Athena' spyware, which targets all major versions of Windows and allows attackers to take total control of systems and steal users' data.

A new Android exploit emerged, known as 'Cloak and Dagger', which allows attackers to add an invisible UI layer on your screen, enabling them to control your phone, log keystrokes and much more, without your knowledge.

The European Commission will reportedly deliver its verdict on three separate Google antitrust cases in the EU within the "next few months". The company has been accused of abusing its dominant position in search, online advertising, and the smartphone market.

Google introduced Jamboard - its touchscreen, stylus-enabled collaboration device - back in October, going up against Microsoft's Surface Hub. Jamboard is now available to purchase, priced at $4,999 - but the stylish rolling stand will set you back an additional $1,199.

Google revealed fresh details of its new-look Android TV home screen, including integration of its digital Assistant. But over a year after announcing plans to bring the Assistant to Android TV, there's still no firm date for its availability.

Meanwhile, a developer ported the new Pixel Launcher from the recently-released Android O Beta, making it available to other devices running Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow or newer.

While Google focuses on development of Android O, the next major version of its ubiquitous OS, many manufacturers still haven't upgraded their devices to Android 7.0 Nougat, which was released nine months ago. LG has finally begun rolling out that update to its V10 handset - and believe it or not, it's actually ahead of schedule.

LG introduced its new rugged Android 7.0 handset, the 'X venture', featuring IP68 dust- and water-resistance, along with a large 4100mAh battery to power its 5.2-inch 1080p display and mid-range Snapdragon 435 processor.

Original image via Wireless Power Consortium

As in previous years, Samsung will launch a rugged version of its latest Galaxy S-series flagships - but the new Galaxy S8 active won't have the curved-edge display seen on its new S8 and S8+.

In March, it emerged that the facial recognition feature to unlock the Galaxy S8 could be fooled simply by using a photo of the device's owner. This week, a video was published showing how the handset's iris scanner could be tricked into unlocking the device using a printout and a contact lens.

Samsung hit back at the video, claiming that it's an unrealistic scenario which is "hard to see happening in real life". Given the company's position, it's hard to understand why Samsung would even bother building these 'security' measures into its devices in the first place.

Samsung also released an update for the S8 and S8+ to improve Bluetooth stability on both handsets.

Samsung's Gear S3 smartwatch received a big update in the United States too, bringing various new features.

And Samsung's new Gear 360 camera went on sale in the US on Thursday, priced at $229.

Honor, Huawei's value-focused brand targeting millennials, introduced a new low-cost mid-range handset this week. The Honor 6A runs Android 7.0, and has a 5-inch 720p display, Snapdragon 430 processor, up to 3GB RAM, 13MP rear camera, and a fingerprint sensor.

Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi unveiled its massive Mi Max 2 handset. Priced from $250, it has a 6.44-inch display, Snapdragon 625 processor, 4GB RAM, and up to 128GB of storage.

It's been a busy week for OnePlus, which is preparing to launch its new flagship-class smartphone, the 5:

Sony is discontinuing its 'premium standard' Xperia smartphones, and is planning to focus exclusively on upper-mid-range and flagship handsets.

In March, Android co-founder Andy Rubin teased a new device in development by his startup, Essential. That device - which features a large display with curved corners and ultra-thin-bezels - will be revealed on May 30.

That's definitely one to watch!

In April, T-Mobile discontinued Alcatel's Windows 10 Mobile flagship just six months after its launch, but the unlocked model has remained available to buy in the US. While the Microsoft Store is selling it for $470, it's now available elsewhere for just $272.99, including a virtual reality headset.

For the second time since March, Microsoft has slashed 25% off HP's Elite x3 and Desk Dock bundle, reducing its price to $599. Curiously, there's no indication that this is a limited-time offer, so it could be a permanent price cut.

Captured from video via Windows Central

Microsoft's own Windows 10 Mobile flagships were a huge disappointment when they launched in 2015, with bland designs, and - at least initially - buggy and crash-prone software. The OS has come a long way since then, but the Lumia 950 and 950 XL might have been better if Microsoft had stuck to its initial plans.

Details emerged this week of Microsoft's original vision for the two handsets, including support for its Surface Pen, touch sensors embedded in the sides of the devices, and smart covers with pen holders and Glance screen support.

Microsoft hasn't added any new features to recent Windows 10 Mobile Insider Preview builds - but some additions are on the way. Microsoft's Brandon LeBlanc revealed that new "features for enterprise customers" are in development, and coming this summer.

Microsoft announced a new SKU of Windows 10, exclusively for the Chinese government. Lenovo will be among the first manufacturers to use the aptly-named Windows 10 China Government Edition.

Microsoft also announced that its Surface Studio all-in-one PC, and the new Surface Laptop that it unveiled earlier this month, will soon be available in China.

The Surface Studio will also launch in twelve other countries in June, in addition to China.

Microsoft's biggest announcement this week was the unveiling of its new Surface Pro 5 Surface Pro tablet. At first glance, it looks virtually identical to the Surface Pro 4, but the new device has over 800 improvements and refinements compared with its predecessor.

Significantly, it offers greatly improved performance with Intel's latest 7th-generation Kaby Lake processors, and up to 13.5 hours of battery life. Integrated 4G LTE support will be available on some models later this year.

Unfortunately, like the new Surface Laptop, the Surface Pro doesn't have any USB Type-C ports. To deal with that omission, Microsoft will be selling a Surface dongle to add USB-C compatibility.

You can watch the Surface Pro launch event here.

Alongside the Surface Pro, Microsoft also introduced an improved version of its Surface Pen, calling it the "fastest digital pen on the planet". It includes 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, and will be priced at $99.99.

By the way, the Surface Pro tablets no longer come with a Surface Pen as part of the package, so if you want one, you'll have to buy it separately.

Ahead of the new Surface Pro's launch in June, Microsoft has cut up to 24% off its Surface Pro 4 tablets in the UK.

Microsoft also released a new firmware update for the Surface Pro 4, bringing a range of improvements and fixes to the device.

Chinese manufacturer Chuwi - which has already released a wide variety of Windows 10 devices - revealed its new SurBook, clearly inspired by the Surface Pro 4. It won't match the Pro 4's performance, though - but with prices starting at $299, that's not surprising.

There's been no shortage of new Windows 10 devices this week. Huawei expanded its commitment to the platform - which began with a single tablet released last year - by unveiling three impressive new MateBook devices on Tuesday.

You can find out more about them in our hands-on video from Huawei's launch event.

HP revealed its new family of Envy laptops and 2-in-1s this week too, including the stylish Envy x360 convertible with pen support.

HP also refreshed its sleek Spectre x2 tablet, with a much higher-resolution 12.3-inch display, and a big boost in performance with new Intel Core i7 processors.

Acer revealed details of its budget-friendly Nitro 5 Windows 10 gaming notebook, along with its new Spin 1 convertible.

It also announced the Iconia Tab 10 and One 10 tablets - but their names refer to their size, rather than Windows 10. Acer said its new 10.1-inch Android devices are designed for "premium multimedia experiences".

Acer unveiled its monstrous new 35-inch Predator curved monitor too. Priced at $1,099, it has a range of ports, and a display resolution of 3440x1440px.

Microsoft updated its minimum hardware requirements for Windows 10 IoT Core, to reflect the additional processors and SoCs that it said that it would support at its Build developer conference earlier this month.

Last month, Microsoft began rolling out the Windows 10 Creators Update. This week, the company said that the rollout is currently "on track", and according to the latest data from AdDuplex, that update is now installed on 18% of Windows 10 PCs.

Microsoft released a new cumulative update for the Windows 10 Creators Update, also known as 'Version 1703'. The new release, build 15063.332, brings fixes to address a broad range of issues in the OS.

Microsoft didn't release any new Windows 10 Insider Preview builds this week - and with Memorial Day taking place in the United States on Monday, it's unlikely to roll out any more builds until Tuesday at the earliest.

However, it did release a new Office Insider preview for Windows PCs in the Slow ring, along with the latest Insider build for Mac devices in the Fast ring.

Microsoft also added support for OneDrive for Business to its cross-platform automated workflow service, Flow.

On Wednesday, Microsoft updated its Authenticator app on Android devices with support for fingerprint scanners.

Xbox Game Pass is finally set to launch on June 1. The $9.99 monthly subscription will give players access to over 100 Xbox games, and Xbox Live Gold members can already get a 14-day Early Access trial of the new service.

The full list of games available on Xbox Game Pass at launch can be found here.

Microsoft added five more Xbox 360 games to the list of those playable on the Xbox One through its Backward Compatibility program, including Assassin's Creed III and ilomilo.

Fallout 4 is free to play this weekend on Steam, and for Xbox Live Gold members on the Xbox One.

Ubisoft officially announced Far Cry 5, revealing its first full trailer, along with several additional trailers introducing key characters. The latest game in the series will pit players against a doomsday cult in the fictional setting of Hope County, Montana.

It looks pretty good!

And here's another game that looks absolutely spectacular: Star Citizen. After setting a crowdfunding goal of $500,000 in 2012, the game reached a staggering $150 million in funding this week.

Finally, there are many words and phrases that I never imagined I would write in my career as a technology journalist, and "mouse ovaries" is certainly among them. But a major scientific breakthrough this week means that I'm glad to be adding that phrase to my lexicon.

Scientists successfully used a 3D bio-printer to create working mouse ovaries that are capable of supporting reproduction. It's an important step towards being able to create artificial human ovaries for women who have reproductive disorders that prevent them from bearing children.

An extraordinary development, and a wonderful way to end our weekly review.

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.

Florin Bodnarescu interviewed Vasco Pedro, the CEO and co-founder of Unbabel, discussing the company's approach to translation - powered by artificial intelligence, but refined by humans. That's definitely worth a read!

Shreyas Gandhe published his detailed review of the Bluboo Edge, an entry-level smartphone that features a curved-edge display, similar to those seen on Samsung's Galaxy flagships. Unfortunately, the low-cost handset is far from perfect...

Robbie Khan got his hands on the Galaxy S8 and S8+ Keyboard Cover, sharing his in-depth review of the accessory. In theory, the keyboard add-on sounds like a good idea that would come in handy for those who prefer physical keys to on-screen buttons for typing - but the execution of that idea leaves a lot to be desired.

Robbie also reviewed Samsung's new convertible wireless charger, which can switch from a flat pad to a 'cradle' in which your handset can be propped up while it's getting more juice. There are certainly a few areas in which it could be improved - including its eye-watering price - but it's still pretty impressive!

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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