7 Days: A week of Windows 10 upgrades, more Marshmallow, and iPhones you can't live without

7 Days is a weekly round-up 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.

The weekend is upon us once again, giving us time to pause, reflect, and catch up on another action-packed week across the tech world. And of course, 7 Days is here again too - your trusty companion, guiding you through what's been happening, to bring you up to speed. Grab a drink, get comfy, and let's get started.

We begin this week with ride-hailing service Uber, which has said that it is actively working on plans to get rid of the unpopular surge pricing model that pushes up the price of a journey in times of high demand.

BitPay wants to make it easier for those who use Bitcoin to be able to spend their money in the 'real world'. The company has launched a new VISA debit card that automatically converts Bitcoin balances into dollars, which can then be withdrawn from an ATM, or spent in any online or physical store that accepts Visa cards.

Hulu announced that it is working on a new live TV service that will launch early next year, in a move that will see it go up against cable TV giants.

Image via nu.nl

But Hulu's new service may face stiff competition from a similar offering on the way from YouTube. Google's video platform is reportedly planning to launch an online subscription TV service in 2017, called 'Unplugged'.

BT, the UK's largest provider of broadband and fixed-line telephony, is investing £6 billion in its network, in an effort to bring 'ultrafast' 300Mbps broadband to around 12 million properties by 2020.

However, that announcement came in the same week that the company detailed its latest price rises. Among the increases, landline phone rental charges will go up by 5%, and monthly broadband will rise by an average of around £2.

Also in the UK, Google's artificial intelligence division, DeepMind, has been given access to over 1.6 million health records of patients being treated by the National Health Service. The company says it will use the data to research and develop an 'early warning system' for patients at risk of developing acute kidney injuries - but the agreement has raised concerns over the amount of personal data being handed over to Google.

IDC's latest figures show that worldwide tablet shipments declined by a hefty 14.7% year-over-year in the first quarter of 2016.

Image via Shutterstock

Details emerged this week of a massive leak of usernames, email addresses and unencrypted passwords for around 272 million webmail accounts from Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and Mail.ru.

However, it seems that the breach was far less catastrophic than originally claimed; the companies involved say that virtually none of the account credentials were authentic or valid.

Microsoft published its latest Security Intelligence Report this week, detailing major cyberthreats and vulnerabilities around the world, including cloud data for the first time. The company said that, every day, its data collection, intelligent analysis and machine learning systems "automatically detect and prevent more than 10 million attacks, from tens of thousands of locations, including millions of attacks where the attacker has valid credentials".

Microsoft security researchers, working with the University of Michigan, published details of serious security flaws in Samsung's SmartThings IoT platform this week. The vulnerability could give attackers remote access to the devices, allowing them to snoop on users in their homes, and even gain codes for smart locks and other home security measures.

A new flaw was exposed in Android devices, allowing attackers to gain access to the built-in cellular radio. The vulnerability affects "hundreds of models" with Qualcomm chips released over the last five years - but while Qualcomm was quick to issue a fix, millions of devices are unlikely to ever receive the patch.

It's been a while since we heard anything about Google's Android One initiative, to offer low-cost, high-quality smartphones through its partners in emerging markets. The company admitted last year that the program - which originally launched in 2014 - had "not delivered to expectations", but it's not giving up yet.

Google's latest monthly stats show that Android 6.0 Marshmallow is now the only version of the OS increasing in usage. But after seven months of availability, the fact that Marshmallow has now made it onto just 7.5% of devices is hardly commendable - especially with the next major version of Android now approaching.

Apple rolled out the fourth beta releases of its next operating system updates this week for developers: iOS 9.3.2, OS X 10.11.5 and tvOS 9.2.1.

Apple is reportedly preparing a major 'reboot' of its Music streaming service, following mixed reviews, complaints about its user interface, and the departures of several executives and key figures close to the service.

The company launched a new 'Student Membership' option for Apple Music this week, allowing students to get the same benefits of a standard subscription, but for half the price.

After a 16% drop in iPhone sales last quarter, Apple's share price fell for eight consecutive business days - its longest losing streak for 18 years. Given the extent to which Apple profits depend on iPhones, it's no surprise that investors were unsettled by the sales decline - but the company's CEO engaged in some damage limitation this week, by talking up the future of its iPhone efforts.

Tim Cook said that Apple has some "great innovation in the pipeline", but in a stunning display of over-the-top hyperbole - which Apple is famous for - he added that its new iPhones will "give you things that you can't live without".

A new video popped up showing Microsoft's '3D Touch' technology, a similar version of which was once slated to launch on Nokia's cancelled McLaren flagship.

While the flagship Lumia 930 is on the official list of handsets supported for upgrade to Windows 10 Mobile, the near-identical Lumia Icon is not - and that has also meant that the Icon has been unable to install the latest Insider Preview builds from the Redstone development branch.

However, Microsoft's Gabe Aul said this week that the Icon would soon be able to install Redstone builds from the Fast ring - and now it finally can. Slow ring installations are also supported.

Microsoft opened pre-orders for its Lumia 650 in Australia, priced at $299 AUD, including a free case...

...and on Friday, the Lumia 650 also went on sale on Cricket Wireless in the US, priced at $129.99.

Most promotional discounts tend to last a few days, maybe a couple of weeks. Microsoft UK has different ideas. In yet another example of a two-month 'special offer', the company has reduced the price of its entry-level Lumia 550 by 10% until the end of June.

But even that doesn't compare with Microsoft's farcical five-month 'special offer' of a 27% discount on the Lumia 640 XL in the UK. It's a permanent price cut! Just call it a price cut already!

The Microsoft Store in the US is no stranger to seemingly endless discounts too. The company is currently offering $75 off the Band 2 - for the third time in six weeks, and just eight days after ending an identical offer.

It's also offering $150 off all Surface Book models with Intel Core i5 processors.

HP unveiled its latest Windows 10 PCs on Tuesday. Its new Pavilion All-in-One PC range includes a 23.8-inch model with a "near-zero bezel" and a pop-up 'Privacy Camera' that disables the camera and microphone when stowed away.

New HP Pavilion notebooks were also unveiled in a range of colors, featuring thinner and lighter bodywork, and the latest Intel Celeron, Pentium and 6th-generation Core i processors.

After revealing last month that Windows 10 had reached 270 million devices, Microsoft provided an update on that figure on Thursday, announcing that it is now installed on over 300 million.

Microsoft said in 2015 that Windows 10 would be offered as a free upgrade for Windows 7 and 8.1 devices for the first year of its availability - and on Thursday, it answered the question of what would happen after that.

The free upgrade offer will end, as planned, on July 29 - after that, those wishing to upgrade will have to buy a full license for the OS, priced at $119 for the Windows 10 Home edition.

But the company later clarified that Windows 10 upgrades will remain free to "customers who use assistive technologies", as part of its accessibility commitment to offer its best possible experience to users with disabilities. However, it's not entirely clear yet how Microsoft will 'police' this arrangement - what's to stop anyone on Windows 7 or 8.1 switching on accessibility features just to get a free upgrade? That's one question that remains unanswered, for now.

There is a way to guarantee yourself a free upgrade to Windows 10 after July 29, though. Check out our guide to find out more.

It should come as no great shock that, when the free upgrade offer ends, Microsoft will remove its annoying 'Get Windows 10' prompts from Windows 7 and 8.1 PCs - which will no doubt be a great relief to the KCCI 8 News team...

However, IT administrators working with Windows 10 Pro have a fresh irritation to deal with. Until recently, admins could block access to the Windows Store in the Pro edition of the OS - but Microsoft has since removed that ability, saying that this policy is now only available on the Enterprise and Education SKUs.

There were no new Windows 10 Insider Preview builds this week - but Microsoft did release ISOs of its latest PC preview, build 14332.

Two of the most anticipated extensions for Microsoft's Edge browser also made their way to the Windows Store on Friday. AdBlock and Adblock Plus are now available, but can only be used on recent Windows 10 preview builds with extensions support.

Some of Microsoft's Win32 apps have started to appear in the Windows Store. Such examples should become more commonplace in the months ahead, thanks to the company's Project Centennial 'Desktop App Converter'.

Microsoft says that a new OneDrive app for Windows 10, built on its Universal Windows Platform (UWP), is on the way, and could arrive this month - but the company's plans for reintroducing placeholder functionality remain unclear.

Vine is one of the latest high-profile brands to launch a new UWP app for Windows 10 devices. Curiously, though, the app has only launched for PCs and tablets, and not for Windows 10 Mobile phones.

Popular file management and sharing application WinZip also launched its new UWP app on Wednesday. The app is available now for Windows 10 PCs, tablets and phones, and includes Cortana support.

And after we published exclusive details of its plans last month, UK mobile network giffgaff launched its UWP app for Windows 10 PCs, tablets and phones on Friday.

Microsoft has launched a Bing Insiders program, offering "access to early builds, new features [and] upcoming fan events".

Microsoft is overhauling its online documentation for developers and IT pros, and has launched a new preview of its efforts at docs.microsoft.com.

On Wednesday, the company also shared its roadmap for the future of SharePoint, offering "simple and powerful file sharing on any device", and promising to put "the mobile and intelligent intranet" in your pocket.

Details of the specs of Microsoft's HoloLens augmented reality headset were revealed this week, including the slightly surprising news that it comes with a 1.04GHz Intel Atom x5-Z8100 processor.

Nausea can be a big issue for users of virtual reality headsets - but Microsoft says it's discovered a novel, and cheap, solution to the problem.

Activision officially announced Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare this week, including confirmation of a remastered version of the classic Modern Warfare.

Infinite Warfare will take the phenomenally popular gaming series into space - but not everyone was impressed by its new journey to the final frontier. The trailer for the game amassed a staggering 600,000 dislikes on YouTube, compared with just 200,000 likes, prompting Activision to respond to criticisms from the series' fans.

Many Star Wars fans may well have rejoiced this week as Microsoft announced that The Force Unleashed and The Force Unleashed II have been added to the list of Xbox 360 games that can run on the Xbox One.

Five more games were added a day later, including Sonic & Knuckles and Samurai Showdown II.

Forza Motorsport 6: Apex launched for Windows 10 PCs as a beta on Thursday - but be aware that there's a long list of known issues with this first release.

Our journey ends this week with two instalments from our NeoBytes :) series.

First, a cautionary tale for travellers, as a Qantas flight was temporarily grounded after a passenger spotted a Wi-Fi hotspot after boarding with the name 'Mobile Detonation Device'. Perceiving this a potentially genuine threat, the captain didn't see the funny side - and neither did the 40-or-so passengers who subsequently refused to fly and demanded to be let off the plane.

And finally, if you upgrade to Windows 10, keep an eye on when your updates are scheduled to install. Pro-gamer Erik Flom - and some of his 130,000 followers on Twitch - saw his 9-hour gaming marathon come to an unceremonious end when Windows 10 rebooted his PC to install automatic updates.

The look on his face says it all...


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. As ever, the Neowin team has been testing all sorts of devices and accessories for you!

Timi Cantisano published his review of LG's new G5 flagship, which features an unusual and original modular approach to its design. The display and camera were high points of the device, as was the excellent performance provided by its Snapdragon 820 SoC - but the modular aspect of its design wasn't quite the success that many were hoping for.

Timi also reviewed the Air Case, a sleek iPhone battery case which he says offers "the perfect combination of form and function".

Ahead of his full review, Christopher White shared his first impressions of Dell's XPS 12 - could it be a worthwhile desktop replacement for the home, or perhaps even for businesses?

And Steven Johns published his review of the Elephone W2, a quartz smartwatch promising excellent battery life, and a classic, mechanical watchface. With an affordable price tag as well, was it the ideal wearable solution - or is it time to look for an alternative?


Stay tuned to Neowin for more official news, juicy rumors, and intriguing insights in the week ahead – it should be another exciting one across the tech world!

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

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

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