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.
After the action-packed excitement of CES last week, things weren’t quite as hectic this week – but even so, there’s been no shortage of juicy news, rumors and insights pouring in from the across the tech world in recent days. But as ever, 7 Days is here to make sure you know what's been happening, walking you through the latest top tech news.
Our journey begins this week in the UK, where police have warned schools and universities of the threat of cybercriminals posing as government officials in order to install malware on their systems.
Meanwhile, British ISPs are planning to send 'educational' alerts to customers suspected of online piracy. The messages won't include threats of legal action, but will instead encourage customers to use legal alternatives like Netflix or Spotify.
A UK crowdfunding campaign is attempting to raise money for a legal challenge to the UK's new Investigatory Powers Act - commonly referred to as the "Snoopers' Charter" - citing the mass-surveillance measure as a disaster for citizens' privacy. But elsewhere in the EU, authorities have proposed measures intended to strengthen - rather than erode - privacy protections for citizens.
The European Commission is also proposing changes to give users greater control over internet cookies, which may include an end to the infuriating cookie warnings that pop up on websites in Europe, and which are currently a legal requirement.
Over in the US, AT&T is increasing charges by $5 per month for those on its legacy unlimited data plans.
Verizon's new measures against unlimited data users are even more severe. The company is forcing those on 'unlimited' wireless plans who consistently use over 200GB per month to switch to another plan, or face disconnection. Its top-tier plan with 100GB of data costs $450 a month.
Verizon's planned acquisition of Yahoo remains uncertain, particularly in light of Yahoo's staggering incompetence in protecting its users' data. But if the acquisition proceeds as planned, the remaining portion of Yahoo's business that won't be purchased by Verizon will be renamed 'Altaba', and Yahoo's current CEO, Marissa Meyer, will step down.
Smartwatch manufacturer Vector is ending its independent operations, after its acquisition by wearable device giant Fitbit.
Fitbit announced this week that it's adding new features to its mobile app, some of which will be available on Windows phones.
Opera showed off a preview of its new concept browser, known as 'Neon', including a range of intriguing new features.
It looks like Apple is preparing to build new computer hardware in the US - but while it's not intending to sell those American-built devices to consumers, the move will no doubt put a big smile on the face of US President-elect Donald Trump.
But Apple is facing the ugly prospect of a resurrected class action lawsuit in the US, which claims that its App Store constitutes a 'monopoly' for those wishing to install software on its devices.
Across the border in Canada, authorities have dropped an investigation that began in 2014 into alleged anti-competitive behavior by Apple.
It appears that an Apple MacBook may have saved the life of a man during the horrifying mass-shooting incident at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida last week. A bullet struck the device, deflecting it away from the man - but some others were not so fortunate. Five people were killed, and many more were injured.
Apple is reportedly working on new augmented reality glasses with Zeiss, whose optical technology has been widely used in high-end Lumia Windows phones.
And Apple is also said to be lining up three new iPads for launch this year, including a new 10.5-inch model with a "narrow bezel design".
On Monday, Apple celebrated the tenth anniversary of the unveiling of its original iPhone - and we took a trip down Memory Lane to mark the occasion.
And after a recent video emerged showing an abandoned version of the iPhone's OS based on its iPod user interface, a further video was published this week showing another early prototype of the handset's operating system.
Google has been developing new technology using machine learning capabilities to dramatically reduce the amount of data required to send and view high-resolution images on mobile devices.
And after years of neglect, it seems that "the new Google Voice" is on the way. The company confirmed that "it's working on some updates" to the service - and frankly, it's about time.
Google's new smartwatch OS was supposed to be released last year, but its launch was delayed. But the company has begun emailing developers to inform them of Android Wear 2.0's rollout in February.
Google's latest Android usage data shows more pitiful progress for the rollout of its latest OS versions. Almost five months after its release, Android 7.0 Nougat has reached just 0.5% of active devices.
Google finally began its Android 7.1.1 Nougat rollout last week for the Nexus 6 - but some owners report that it's caused severe speakerphone issues on their devices.
Lenovo announced that its Android 7.0 rollout will start next week for the ZUK Z2 and Z2 Pro. Meanwhile, OnePlus released a new version of its Nougat update for the 3 and 3T, bringing fixes... but also some known issues.
Samsung also began the general release of its Android 7.0 update for the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge.
Samsung's new Galaxy S8 could go on sale in April, by which time, the company will no doubt be hoping that memories of its fiery Galaxy Note7 flagship fiasco will have faded away. Airlines in the US are no longer required to make announcements about the Note7 - but the handset is still banned onboard flights.
Images of Samsung's new Galaxy C7 Pro leaked online this week...
...but more excitingly, Samsung is reportedly planning to unveil its new smartphone with a foldable screen, which can be opened up to create a larger tablet-style device. It's expected to be revealed in Q3 of this year, with a similar device from LG appearing in Q4.
LG's new G6 flagship could beat Samsung's Galaxy S8 to market, with an anticipated launch in early March.
blatantly copied drew obvious inspiration from LG's V10 and V20 flagships with the design of its new U Ultra range-topper, unveiled this week alongside the smaller U Play handset. HTC is halving the number of its handset launches this year - but it's far from clear if that will help the company sort out the chaotic mess of its range.
Among the many questionable decisions made by HTC in recent months, the company announced the international launch of its Desire 650 this week. The 650 has a three-year-old Snapdragon 400 chipset, along with near-identical specs to the Desire 630 that it launched a year ago.
British device brand Wileyfox unveiled its new Swift 2 X handset with a Snapdragon 430 SoC, along with a 5.2-inch 1080p display.
And after a long, long wait, HMD Global announced its first Nokia-branded Android smartphone. The Nokia 6 has a Snapdragon 430 SoC, 5.5-inch 1080p display, aluminum body, 4GB RAM, 64GB storage, and more - but it's going to be exclusively available in China when it launches on January 19 for around $250.
HMD has teased "more announcements" soon, which it's expected to make at Mobile World Congress next month. They may include new Nokia 8 and 8 Supreme handsets with flagship-class specs.
Meanwhile, Nokia itself is believed to be working on a new digital assistant, named 'Viki'.
The latest smartphone sales market share data from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech shows significant gains for iOS and Android in many key markets, which it said was "due to the decline of Windows" phone sales - a trend that's been continuing over the last couple of years.
The lack of interest in Windows phones may well have influenced T-Mobile's decision to cut the price of Alcatel's Windows 10 Mobile flagship, the IDOL 4S, by 8% just two months after its launch.
Microsoft's own Windows phones have reached the end of their retail lives, with stock on its store having been depleted in many countries. Cricket Mobile in the US ended sales of the Lumia 650, while Microsoft itself has now started deleting some of its devices from its store:
- Lumia 650 and Lumia 735 no longer listed on US Store
- Lumia 640 XL (AT&T) removed from US Store; unlocked model remains listed, but 'hidden'
- Two more Lumia configurations removed from US Store
- Lumia 550 completely deleted from Microsoft Store in the UK
Given that many of its devices have been out of stock for weeks - even months, in some cases - it's not clear why Microsoft is taking so long to scrub them from its store.
Microsoft launched a new web-based privacy dashboard, as well as announcing a new privacy set-up experience for Windows 10. But while the company claimed that these new features were being introduced "based on [user] feedback", it later emerged that its announcements followed an agreement made with Swiss authorities, after an investigation that raised concerns about Windows 10's extensive data collection.
It's been a busy week for Windows Insiders, starting with the release of a new PC build for the Fast ring on Monday:
- Windows 10 Insider Preview build 15002 brings a huge range of new features
- New features for Edge browser, including Web Payments support and disabled Flash content
- Additional Settings options include new Theme Management and blue light adjustment
- Dynamic Lock feature (or 'Windows Goodbye') locks your PC automatically when you step away
- New build introduces the ability to hit pause on updates
- Fixes and known issues in build 15002
- Hands-on with build 15002
- Windows 10 build 15002 ISOs are now available
A few days later, Microsoft released a further Insider Preview to the Fast ring:
- Windows 10 build 15007 available for PCs and phones - the first mobile build since December 1
- New features in build 15007 specifically for phones
- Fixes and known issues for PCs
- What's been fixed, and what hasn't, for phones
On Friday, Microsoft also released a new Windows 10 SDK Preview, build 15003. The company will host an online Windows Developer Day event next month to showcase new features in the upcoming Windows 10 Creators Update.
Among other new improvements in the Creators Update, Microsoft is said to be working on speed improvements to its Windows Hello biometric authentication feature.
Along with its new Creators Update previews, Microsoft also released its latest monthly updates for non-Insider Windows 10 PCs and phones:
- Build 14393.693 (Anniversary Update / Version 1607)
- Build 10586.753 (November Update / Version 1511)
- Build 10240.17236 (Original Windows 10 release / Version 1507)
Two Microsoft employees are suing the company, claiming that they have suffered post-traumatic stress disorder after it required them to view extremely disturbing images and videos, including those portraying child pornography and murder. The two employees were part of Microsoft's online safety team, but allege that the firm neglected to provide them with the proper support they needed.
Microsoft announced its acquisition of AI research startup Maluuba, to boost its natural language processing technologies.
Microsoft added support for Apple's macOS 10.12 Sierra to System Center Configuration Manager and System Center Endpoint Protection.
But it also announced end-of-support deadlines for some products, including System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2007, and System Center Data Protection Manager 2007.
Microsoft's SharePoint Server 2016 picked up its January 2017 Cumulative Update, including some important security fixes.
The January update for the Office Mobile Insider Program rolled out on Friday bringing a range of improvements to the Windows 10 apps. It followed the arrival of a new Office 2016 preview for Office Insiders.
Microsoft released a major update for its Outlook app on iOS, bringing some rather nice additions and improvements.
LinkedIn, which is now part of the Microsoft empire, emailed users on Tuesday to inform them that it was ending support for its Windows phone app. But hours later, the company told Neowin that despite the explicit statement in its message, Windows phone users had "mistakenly received" the email, and that nothing is changing.
Unfortunately, the same can't be said for users of Samsung's SmartThings app on Windows phones. The company has said that it's ending support for the app this year.
Microsoft finally killed off its Windows Essentials 2012 software suite, removing the download links from the web.
With a little help from Microsoft's Desktop App Converter, Slack brought its desktop app to the Windows Store, adding support for Live Tiles.
And Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo added support for the Xbox One to its Windows 10 app.
On Friday, Microsoft announced details of new features and enhancements coming to its Xbox One and Xbox One S, including integrated Beam game streaming, better tournament features, and details of the new PC Game Mode. The improvements will arrive with the Windows 10 Creators Update - a name that's appearing increasingly inappropriate for the console.
A year ago, Platinum Games announced that Scalebound had been delayed until 2017. Amid reports of a troubled relationship with Microsoft, and repeated failure to meet deadlines, Microsoft confirmed on Monday that it had dropped its support for the game, which was due to be an Xbox One and Windows 10 exclusive.
On Tuesday, Microsoft announced seven additions to its ever-growing list of Xbox 360 games playable on the Xbox One, and it added another three on Thursday.
It also introduced two new color options for its Xbox Wireless Controller.
Sony unveiled a new Glacier White version of its PlayStation 4 Slim this week, which will be released later this month.
The company also opened registrations for those wishing to beta test its next major software update for the PS4.
Nintendo's new NES Classic Edition has been cracked, allowing owners to add their own games to its library. The retro console had previously been limited to just the 30 games that come pre-installed.
The biggest gaming news of the week came from Nintendo, which announced full details of its new Switch hybrid console, which can be played on the go - via its built-in 6.2-inch HD display - or connected to a TV through a docking station. The console comes with 32GB of storage, and its games come on 'Game Cards', with up to 6.5 hours of battery life available, depending on which games you play.
There was some rather depressing news on the gaming front earlier this week too. Razer revealed that two of its prototypes of the stunning Project Valerie gaming notebook - which has three built-in 17.3-inch 4K displays - were stolen from its booth at CES 2017. The company has offered a $25,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of those responsible.
You can get a closer look at Project Valerie in our video of the Razer booth at CES.
Our odyssey across the tech world this week ends on a spicy note, thanks to data published by adult entertainment site Pornhub.
The company provided a breakdown of its visitors to the site in 2016, showing that the majority of users came to (or over) its videos using their phones, and the most popular browser was Chrome, while the most widely-used OS among desktop users was Windows.
You can write your own jokes about all that - I'm off to do some important research on Pornhub.
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.
Staying on the theme of adult entertainment, Rich Woods visited Naughty America at the CES 2017 expo, and interviewed its chief information officer, discussing porn in augmented reality, 8K resolution, and on Microsoft's HoloLens headset.
In a somewhat less saucy - but still very interesting - interview, Rich also had a chat with the president of Windows phone manufacturer NuAns, who expressed his disappointment over how things have turned out with Windows 10 Mobile.
And finally, Rich also shared his perspective on CES 2017, examining the top trends of the event, and how they look set to shape the tech landscape over the year ahead.
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!