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7 Days: A week of Windows 10's Timeline, a holographic Android, and Microsoft ZoMG

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 the end of another week across the tech world, and there’s been no shortage of exciting news, spicy rumors, and one or two surprises. But if you think you might have missed something, don’t panic – 7 Days is here again to walk you through the week’s top tech news, and bring you up to speed.

Our global tech odyssey begins this week in China, where the company behind the Transit Elevated Bus - a vehicle that can carry 300 passengers over moving traffic - has become the focus of a police investigation, in which authorities are working on recovering funds.

Image: Michel Euler / AP via WAER.org

In France, the ecology minister announced a plan to ban the sale of all vehicles powered by fossil fuels by 2040, with financial incentives available to those who buy hybrid or electric vehicles.

Image: University of Washington

Over in the United States, researchers at the University of Washington showed off a phone that has no battery, but is still capable of making Skype calls.

The US government lifted its controversial ban on laptops, tablets and e-readers onboard flights operated by airlines from several countries. The ban was removed from flights to the US operated by Turkish Airlines, Etihad Airways, and Emirates Airline earlier in the week, followed later by Qatar Airways.

Amazon continued its global expansion by acquiring Souq, a Middle Eastern e-commerce platform, for $650 million.

But there were big headaches for sellers on Amazon and eBay when their product images suddenly disappeared from those sites. The reason? Their images were hosted on Photobucket, which changed the terms of its service agreement for third-party hosting, demanding $399 a year.

Could Apple become the first company in the world with a trillion-dollar market cap? One Wall Street analyst thinks it could happen within the next 12 months, fuelled by the anticipated success of the 'iPhone 8'.

Apple is reportedly planning to release three iPhones in 2018, all with OLED displays.

But Apple has problems to deal with before then. Qualcomm has filed a lawsuit against the company, claiming that it unlawfully infringes on some of its patents, and seeking to ban the sale of iPhones in the US.

A report into malware threats published this week found that those targeting macOS and Linux had tripled last year.

Elsewhere, the leaksters from WikiLeaks revealed that the CIA has been targeting systems running Linux with malware that re-routes traffic to its servers for analysis.

On Monday, Linux Mint 18.2 was released, with Cinnamon, MATE, KDE and Xfce editions immediately available for download. The in-place upgrade path was also made available the next day.

BitTorrent, Inc. introduced a new Game Store to uTorrent, offering games for Linux, macOS and Windows. However, games purchased from the store aren't actually downloadable via uTorrent.

HMD Global said this week that its new Nokia 3310 has been a sales success - so much so, that it's now considering more retro devices with a modern twist.

The new Nokia 3310 is a low-cost feature phone, but if you've got more money than sense - and if you've got no sense of style whatsoever - then you might be interested in a this ghastly special edition model produced by the pretentiously named Caviar. The $2,500 variant was produced to mark this year's G20 summit, and is crafted from titanium with gold trim, including an emblem with the heads of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and US President Donald Trump.

Good grief.

In much less disturbing news, HMD announced an exclusive partnership with ZEISS, to bring its world-renowned imaging technology to future Nokia Android devices. ZEISS optics previously featured on some of Nokia's best phones, including the N8, N95 and the iconic Lumia 1020.

For me, that might just be the most exciting news of the week...!

Image: CIO

Over in the UK, regulators have ruled that a London hospital trust failed to comply with data protection laws when it shared patient information with Google's DeepMind, as part of a medical trial last year.

Google has far bigger problems in Europe, though. Last month, it was fined a record €2.42 billion ($2.7 billion) by the European Commission for antitrust violations related to its shopping search. Now, the EC is preparing its final ruling in a separate Android antitrust investigation, which could see Google slapped with another huge fine.

After a months-long development delay, Google said Android Wear 2.0 would reach all eligible devices earlier this year. But following several missed deadlines, owners of the ASUS ZenWatch 2 and 3 are still waiting. ASUS now says the update will begin rolling out next week - but we've heard that one before.

Google released its latest monthly Android security update, along with new system images and OTA files for supported Nexus and Pixel devices. But some Pixel phones have been struck by an unexplained "installation problem" preventing them from getting the new security patches.

Ten months after its release, Android 7.0 Nougat is now on just 10.6% of active Android devices. Even worse: after 8 months of availability, Android 7.1 has reached a pitiful 0.9%, with the next major version of Android due in a few weeks.

Xiaomi revealed a list of 11 devices that it plans to upgrade to Nougat, but there's still no timeframe for when that will actually happen.

Incredibly, some manufacturers are still rolling out Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Almost two years after Google released it, BLU finally brought that update to its Life One X handset.

An Asian manufacturer is preparing to launch a new Android phone designed for gaming, with a 6-inch display, Helio X20 processor and 6GB RAM, along with dedicated gameplay controls. Amusingly, the device is called the Snail Mobile i7.

Perhaps the most surprising news of the week came on Thursday, when camera specialist RED announced a new premium Android phone with a 5.7-inch "holographic display" that uses "nanotechnology". It'll be a modular device too, integrating with RED's ecosystem of high-end cameras and recording equipment.

But while this all sounds very exciting, RED's announcement was woefully light on hard details - aside from unanswered questions about its fancy screen, we don't even know what processor this thing will use, or what kind of battery life it will offer. Even so, the company is already accepting pre-orders, with prices starting at $1,195.

The HTC U11

HTC is reportedly working on a premium mid-range smartphone with the same 'squeezy' edges as its U11 flagship.

Meanwhile, Meizu's new flagship will apparently have a rather odd feature: a secondary display on the rear of the device, below its dual-lens camera.


"Look! It's not exploding!"

Speaking of nonsensical decisions, Samsung resurrected its fiery flagship - hopefully, with less fire this time - as the refurbished Galaxy Note Fan Edition, which went on sale on Friday.

Samsung also unveiled the new Galaxy On Max, with a 5.7-inch 1080p display, and a "flagship camera".

Samsung is said to be working on a new smart speaker powered by its Bixby digital assistant, which it introduced on the Galaxy S8 and S8+. But work on the device has been hindered by ongoing issues with Bixby's development.

Samsung also showed off a standalone VR headset that doesn't need a smartphone to use it - unlike its existing Gear VR products.

Last week, OnePlus dismissed complaints from owners of its new flagship phone about screen distortion issues on the device, popularly referred to as a 'jelly' scrolling effect, which you can see in the video above. However, the company then admitted that the display on the OnePlus 5 is mounted upside-down.

Teardowns of the device showed that the OnePlus 5 has exactly the same display as the older OnePlus 3T - but it appears that the panel wouldn't fit into the OnePlus 5's chassis the right way up without redesigning the camera and antennas. Rather than ordering new panels that would fit correctly, it seems OnePlus simply inverted the display.

And that's not all, as owners of the OnePlus 5 have been complaining of another issue with the device. OnePlus shipped the phone without properly calibrating its software to correctly align the left and right audio channels when recording video. If you hold the device one way, it will record the L and R audio correctly; hold it the other way, and when you play the video back, you'll hear sound from the right coming through on the left channel.

"Never settle." Ha.

Less than a year and a half after completely redesigning its Bing mobile app, Microsoft relaunched Bing for Android with "a whole new look" again this week. Thankfully, the horrendous bright teal design of the previous version has been binned.

Microsoft also released a new beta of its Arrow Launcher app for Android with a bunch of new features.

Last week, the first photos emerged of Microsoft's cancelled Surface mini tablet. This week, images appeared of Nokia's cancelled mini Windows tablet, codenamed 'Mercury' - but unlike the Surface mini, the Nokia device would have run full-fat Windows 8.1, rather than Windows RT.

Microsoft quietly revealed the Modern Keyboard with Fingerprint ID last month, and it's now available to buy in the US, priced at $129.99.

The new Microsoft Arc Mouse and Microsoft Modern Mouse also went on sale this week. The $79.99 Microsoft Arc Mouse is the same as the Surface Arc Mouse, but it's only available in black. The $49.99 Microsoft Modern Mouse is the same as the Surface Mouse, but... nope, they're identical.

It never ceases to amaze me how Microsoft manages to make even the simplest things utterly confusing.

The latest browser market share stats arrived this week - and they paint a rather bleak picture for Microsoft Edge.

There was better news elsewhere for Microsoft, as the percentage of gamers on Steam running Windows 10 reached a record high of 51.23%.

Speaking of Steam, Valve revealed that a user interface overhaul is on the way for its gaming platform.

Microsoft revealed on Monday that the Timeline features it announced at Build 2017 - and which it said would be coming to Windows 10 in the Fall Creators Update - won't make it into that update. Those features are intended to make it easier to work and play across multiple devices, including those running iOS and Android, but they've been delayed until next year's Redstone 4 update.

Bizarrely, some at the company tried to make out that Microsoft had never firmly stated that it was planning to bringing those features to the FCU, even though it did, repeatedly, at Build...

...and elsewhere.

On Friday, Microsoft released its latest Windows 10 Insider Preview, build 16237, to PCs in the Fast ring, with a range of new features, along with various fixes and known issues.

It also announced that its final Bug Bash for the Fall Creators Update will begin next Friday.

On Thursday, Microsoft confirmed that it's cutting up to 3,000 jobs from its global workforce, primarily in its sales division, as it realigns its sales teams to focus more heavily on its Azure cloud platform.

Microsoft updated its OneDrive sync client this week, and users suddenly discovered that they were unable to sync drives formatted with exFAT, FAT32, or ReFS. Microsoft later told Neowin that OneDrive was only ever supposed to support NTFS drives, and that a warning message that should have appeared to users syncing non-NTFS drives had been missing all along.

Remember Microsoft's Tay chatbot? The company launched Tay on Twitter last year as an experiment in AI and machine learning - but it quickly turned into a racist hate machine. It later launched a similar chatbot, known as Zo, on Kik and Facebook Messenger - but despite being programmed to avoid discussing politics and religion, Zo decided to describe the Qu'ran as "very violent"... after being asked for its views on healthcare.

Microsoft's 343 Industries announced on Thursday that Halo 5: Guardians will get a 'True 4K' upgrade for those who play it on the new Xbox One X console.

In the weeks leading up to its official unveiling, there was intense speculation about Project Scorpio's official name. But how did Microsoft choose the Xbox One X name? This week, it explained that it wanted to "go back to [its] roots as an 'X'-box team".

We also got our first look at performance benchmarks for the Xbox One X, revealing its true power.

In a rather embarrassing - and pretty stupid - move, Sony was found to have taken footage showing upcoming third-person shooter game Anthem on the Xbox One X, and clumsily edited PS4 buttons into the video, to try to pass it off as its own content. Sony later deleted the video, but still hasn't commented on its highly questionable actions.

Sony announced on Thursday that gamers on Windows will now be able to play a range of PlayStation 4 games through its PlayStation Now streaming service.

The developer of the upcoming Xbox One and Windows 10 exclusive, Crackdown 3, discussed the power differential between the capabilities of Xbox One X and the PlayStation 4 Pro, saying there's a "night and day" difference between the two consoles.

If you own a Nintendo Switch, but you're still feeling a bit nostalgic for the company's consoles of yesteryear, feast your eyes on the ColorWare Joy-Con Classic controllers, with a design inspired by the much-loved NES. At $199, they're not exactly cheap, though.

But our journey around the tech world ends this week with the story of a Reddit user who received a suspicious voicemail, claiming to be from the IRS. The Redditor got his own back on the scam callers by flooding their phone lines with robocalls.

That's one way to deal with it...!

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.

Rich Woods published his review of Apple's new 10.5-inch iPad Pro, and absolutely loved its display, impressive performance, and productivity-focused features. But there were a few downsides, including the eye-watering price of the device and its accessories.

Rich also reviewed the LG Watch Sport - a new Android Wear 2.0 device with Qualcomm's Snapdragon Wear 2100 chipset and 4G LTE connectivity. He called it "the complete package", and it certainly seems pretty good!

Boyd Chan shared his detailed review of the Oukitel K10000 Pro, a stylish Android phone with a monstrous 10,000mAh battery. Besides its epic battery life, there's a lot more to like about the device too - that review is definitely worth a read!

The lipstick phone? The Matrix phone? The one shaped like a teardrop? As HMD says it's considering more retro Nokia phones like the 3310, we're eager to hear which one you'd like to see return. Join in the discussion, and have your say!

And finally, a reminder that if you think you've got what it takes to do the job that we do every day, writing about technology, I've got good news for you.

We're looking for people who are passionate about tech to help get the latest news out to our millions of readers around the world. If you want to join the Neowin team, make sure you apply here!

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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