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Updated: 2 hours 10 min ago

More details of the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus leak out ahead of MWC

3 hours 28 min ago

With the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus expected to be unveiled at Mobile World Congress at the end of February, we've got a pretty good idea of what to expect already – but leaks about these handsets' specs continue to drip out on to the web, just in case you want to take all the surprise out of Samsung's official announcement.

The information put forth by South Korea's ETNews confirms some of the rumors we've heard so far while also adding a few new interesting tidbits to the pot. Everything from the specs of the cameras to the shape of the internal circuit board gets a mention in the report.

First up the rear-facing cameras – the single-sensor one on the S9 is said to offer a variable f/1.5 to f/2.4 aperture, with the S9 Plus snapper keeping those same specs but offering two sensors in one camera. That ties up with previous whispers about the camera specs and should mean better low-light performance than ever.

Screen, camera, battery

The screen sizes also get a mention, with 5.77 inches and 6.22 inches mentioned for the S9 and S9 Plus respectively. We haven't heard those exact numbers before, and may be the result of Samsung managing to make the bezels smaller than ever on the displays on the front of these devices.

As for the front-facing cameras, they're reportedly pegged at 8MP, though the S9 version includes an iris scanner whereas the S9 Plus version has a separate module for eye scans – we're not sure why but it's something to look for when the official news arrives.

Various other technical specs mentioned in the article suggest that certain internal components have been shrunk down, perhaps leaving room for a bigger battery, and hint that the screen technology itself could also get a minor upgrade. In another month or so we should know for sure what Samsung has in store for 2018.

Via Android Authority

Should TVs ever replace the art in our homes?

5 hours 27 min ago

Whether you’ve got yourself a fully-automated Jetsons house or just an Echo Dot and a few Hue bulbs, there’s no arguing that smart homes are well and truly mainstream nowadays. 

As more and more connected tech enters your living room, the way it all looks and fits into your home needs to be taken into consideration more than ever. After all, there’s only so much real estate on your coffee table and only so many times you can look at an ugly, bulky device when a rival company is offering up a slick-looking, customisable one at the same price. 

Although all kinds of smart tech gadgets will increasingly be designed with style in mind as much as substance, one obvious piece of tech that’s often aching for a makeover is the TV. 

Although TV manufacturers have never been afraid to innovate, and names like Loewe and Bang and Olufsen have long been putting plenty of thought into the design and attractiveness of their screens, there’s potential for that huge space that takes up most of our living room walls to be turned into something more.

That’s why there’s been an increase in bigger, more mainstream tech companies over the past year or so revealing TVs and concepts that aren’t just smart and bursting with features, but are positioned more as a lifestyle statement, a front room centrepiece and, maybe, kinda, a piece of art. 

Turning your TV into a work of art

One of the most obvious art-meets-tech collaborations was between Samsung and designer Yves Behar last year when they created The Frame. The Frame is a TV that spends half of its time as a TV and the other half of its time in Art Mode. That means when you’re not using it, it sits flush against your wall and displays photos or art. 

Instead of using your TV to display art, a few brands have flipped the idea on its head and designed a TV that would look just as at home in a modern art gallery as it does in your, well, home. Take a look at the Bild X by Loewe, a TV that’s trying its hardest to look more like a piece of art than a tellybox with a round base, thin metal stand and no cables in sight. 

Sometimes these nods to art are more subtle. Take LG’s OLED W8 which the company unveiled at CES 2018. LG calls the design aesthetic of the new TV ‘picture-on-wall’ and, put in front of a non-techy, it would definitely give the illusion of a beautiful art display. Maybe the future of TVs is moving to a more high-end and design-led aesthetic rather than going all out and mimicking it?

If it doesn't look incredible, let's make it invisible

Maybe we’re not thinking smart enough about the smart home. If TV tech can’t pass of as art, maybe the answer is to make it ‘invisible’ instead. 

LG was busy at CES 2018 as it also unveiled a 65-inch TV concept that’s rollable, meaning you can roll it away when you’re done. That means there’s no more worrying about if it’ll compete with your art or look good in your room, instead you’ll just be able to get rid of it when you’re done. 

Similarly, Panasonic has revealed details of its ‘Invisible TV’ at various trade shows over the years, a futuristic TV that turns into a regular old pane of glass when it’s not in use. 

Of course designing a piece of tech that takes pride of place in your home as much as a TV is difficult because we all have different tastes. The same goes for what really constitutes ‘art’. 

For instance, a TV that looks like it belongs in MoMA is unlikely to look at home next to my two Billy bookcases. Yet in some houses space constraints will dictate whether you buy a big TV or purchase one in the not-so-distant future that promises to remain hidden. 

But these choices are what's important. As more people add tech into their homes and decide how they want it to look, the choice to choose between form, function or big, bold statement is one that should be welcomed. 

  • Our guide to the best TVs contains our top picks for this year

Audiobooks are coming very soon to Google Play

7 hours 28 min ago

If you like having your literature read out to you, keep your eyes on the Google Play Store, as it looks like a dedicated audiobook section is on the way – and if you're quick you might be able to get a hefty discount on your first purchase when the changes go live.

You can already get a limited number of audiobooks through the Google Play Music app, but it's not really a fully fledged service. As spotted by 9to5Google, an audiobook banner has been added to the Play Store, though for now the new section doesn't seem to have been activated.

Offering a clearer way to browse and buy audiobooks would help Google in its ongoing rivalry with Amazon, which owns Audible and recently added audiobook support to its Kindles. From smart speakers to cloud storage, the two companies have a lot of overlap these days.

Changes to Play Books

Thanks to some digging by the folks over at Android Police, we also know that the Google Play Books app is about to be upgraded with audiobook support. Audiobooks and ebooks will be split into separate tabs, according to changes made in the app's code.

All that remains is for Google to flip the switch on its end and you'll be able to feed your audiobook obsession through Google Play. There's no official word on when that's going to happen or exactly what it'll look like, though it shouldn't be too far down the line.

With the likes of Spotify also improving support for audiobooks, it's a category that Google needs to keep pace in if it wants to offer a complete selection of digital products through its store. As always, you'll be able to pay for audiobooks with a few clicks or taps.

Here's another sign that Android Oreo for the Galaxy S8 will be here soon

Sat, 20/01/2018 - 14:30

If you're the owner of a Galaxy S8 or Galaxy S8 Plus then you're no doubt wondering exactly when your Android 8.0 Oreo upgrade is coming down the pipe. Well, we're still not completely sure, but there's a new development that hints the update isn't far off now.

SamMobile spotted that the manual for Oreo has been uploaded to Samsung's site in Brazil, a step that has preceded the pushing out of the upgrade for previous versions of Android. It means the Oreo software could be less than a month away now.

Early 2018 has long been tipped as the time when Samsung S8 and S8 Plus owners would be able to get their hands on the latest version of Google's mobile OS, so it looks like the wait is almost over. The software has been available to beta testers for several months.

What's included

Android Oreo brings with it a few neat new features and tricks, including improved security and better battery life, and a new system for setting some notifications as more important than others - as long as the apps you're using have been updated to support the feature.

Of course Samsung will add its own touches on top of the core OS - a skin once known as TouchWiz and now referred to as the Samsung Experience - so there may well be some surprises in store. Support for Dolby Atmos is one feature we've already seen mentioned.

You don't need to start mashing the system update button just yet, but it shouldn't be too long before the new software arrives, and we'll let you know as soon as it does. It might even turn up before Samsung's 2018 flagship phone does, the Galaxy S9.

The Byton Concept's massive 49-inch display is just the tip of this car's tech iceberg

Sat, 20/01/2018 - 12:15

I've seen the future – and it has a whole lot of screen. 

Seriously though, so much screen. More screen you can shake a stick at. Screen as far as the eye can see… until you move your head and you're no longer looking at the screen.

I climbed into the passenger seat of the all-electric Byton Concept car at CES 2018 in Las Vegas, and, as you may have gathered, there's a lot of screen in there. 

It's not just about the screen though. Byton is attempting to reimagine what driving is, and the experience you can have in the vehicle. 

My brief ride in the concept wasn't enough to judge whether it will be a success, but there's a lot of food for thought here. 

The Byton Concept has an aggressive, powerful stance

What is Byton?

Byton is a new electric vehicle manufacturer from China, following in the footsteps of US companies such as Tesla and Faraday Future.

Its first car, simply known as the Byton Concept for now, is a crossover SUV which sits low and wide with large 22-inch wheels, giving it a powerful stance even without the usual height of a sports utility vehicle. 

The firm says the car will be available towards the end of 2019 for an "entry-level premium" price tag.

What exactly does that mean? Well there's no exact pricing yet, but I was told it's likely to come in at around $45,000 (£33,000, $AU56,000), which would make it cheaper than the Tesla Model S and Model X

That's actually not a bad price tag when you consider that the Byton Concept is absolutely packed with technology, from face recognition cameras that unlock the car to gesture controls and slick smartphone integration. It's a glimpse of the future of driving. 

Byton Concept design gallery

The screen

And now to the main event: the 49-inch (1.25m) display that extends across the entire width of the dashboard is a joy to behold. 

Its 4K UHD resolution means it's crystal clear, and its sheer size means it can display a wealth of information and entertainment all at once. 

Aside from the huge display, the cabin is relatively sparse, with an uncluttered dash in front of the screen and no physical buttons in sight. 

Instead, a gesture control camera unit sits centrally on the edge of the dash, allowing the driver (or front seat passenger) to manipulate the massive screen, hands-free. 

Byton big screen gallery

The demo we were given in the car made it look intuitive, with swiping, pinching, grabbing and pointing gestures appearing to work well, although the car wasn't running a full or final build of the Byton Life software platform. 

Byton has deliberately not made the 49-inch display a touchscreen, as it doesn't want fingerprints getting it dirty, but it will add touch control via your smartphone before the car launches, for greater accuracy. 

There's certainly a lot to look at on the big screen. The driver gets views from the rear view and wing mirror cameras (there are no physical mirrors here) for a wider field of view, along with the usual driving information, while the middle and passenger side of the screen offers up a wealth of options. 

You'll be able to watch videos from various streaming services, make and receive phone and video calls, view the 3D satellite navigation and, if you opt to install the Byton application on your smartwatch, you'll also be able to see your vital health data including heart rate, blood pressure and blood oxygen level.

Byton big screen features gallery

The platform also features a smart AI which can suggest new routes based on updated meeting information from your calendar, offer to send a message to others if you're running late, keep an eye on your health and suggest rest stops, and more. 

There's Amazon Alexa integration too, allowing you to utilize all the features of the smart assistant. It also means you'll be able to send commands to the car when at home, such as turning on the heating or AC before you even get to the vehicle. 

Totally tech

The technology starts before you get in the car though, with the Byton arriving without a set of keys. 

That's because there are facial recognition cameras built into the B pillars (the structural pillars between the front and rear doors).

These cameras scan your face as you approach the car, and will unlock it if you've been set up as a profile for that vehicle. You don't have to be the driver, so any family member or friend will be able to unlock the car if you've previously set up their profile. 

They won't necessarily be able to start the engine and drive off though, because there's another 3D face scanner mounted in the steering wheel, this time checking if you are allowed to drive the car. 

Facial recognition cameras are built into the B pillars, allowing you to unlock the car securely

And face-scanning doesn't stop there, as all passengers will be scanned, enabling the Byton Concept to load each person's individual profile, and adjust seat positions and climate controls for each person automatically. 

The car can also sync with your smartphone, which you dock in a wireless charging plinth on the door, providing you with additional in-car controls. 

The smartphone integration wasn't available during our demo, and the docking station doesn't appear to be adjustable, which means it's unlikely to provide a snug fit for a lot of the differently sized mobiles available. 

There's a wireless charging smartphone dock on the inside of each of the four doors

The Huawei P10 dummy unit that was residing in the dock did fit snugly though. Byton says it will be offering its own 5.5-inch smartphone when the car launches, and while you can be sure it'll sit nice;y in the dock it's unclear if it'll actually be any good (or how much it'll cost).

These personal profiles and the smartphone integration means that if you get into another Byton car the setup will match the one you settled on in your own vehicle. 

Back to the driving seat, and the steering wheel features an 8-inch touchscreen that gives you access to all the core controls, from climate, seat position and interior lighting to navigation, heated windows and car data.

It does look a little odd, and it's likely to be something on an acquired taste for some people, but it certainly offers up a lot functionality.

The lump under the 8-inch steering wheel display? That's the airbag

Back seat drivers aren't forgotten 

There's plenty going on in the front of the Byton, but rear seat passengers aren't left out of the fun. 

There's a smartphone dock in either rear door, and when the car is stationary the two front seats can angle towards each other by 12 degrees to open up the view of the main display to those in the back. 

Yes, movie nights of the future will take place on your drive rather than in your living room. Okay, maybe not, but the option is there. 

The Byton Concept will be available in two core models when it launches at the end of the 2019, with the choice of two rear seats or a more traditional bench of three seats. 

The former configuration is aimed more at business customers, especially those based in Asia, and includes a 13-inch display on the rear of both front seats, plus a gesture control camera allowing those in the back to dictate what’s happening on the big screen.

With all this technology at your fingertips, it may be difficult to nominate a designated driver – after all, who wants to be stuck driving when everyone else is having fun?

Never fear – Byton has a plan. The car will ship with level 3 autonomy, which still requires a driver to be present, but which means the car can do the majority of the work.

That doesn't solve the problem completely, but Byton claims that a year after the car launches it will roll out level 4 autonomy to the vehicle via a software update. 

Level 4 is classed as 'fully autonomous', which means your Byton should be able to drive you where you need to go without any input from you.

Of course, there are various legalities to overcome before you'll be able to go fully autonomous, with very few places allowing self-driving vehicles on their roads at this time.

This is the direction the car industry is heading in though, and if the Byton is anything to go by, long car journeys are about to go from laborious to luxurious.

  • John McCann is getting behind the wheel to give you an alternative look at the wealth of cars – and the tech inside them – available today. From super-fast sports cars to tech-packed hatchbacks, he'll take you through a range of makes, models, power and price tags in his regular TR Drives column.

Your smart home won't be full of smart speakers if everything is a smart speaker

Sat, 20/01/2018 - 12:00

This year at CES, it seemed like every manufacturer was boasting of voice assistant integration; Alexa and Google Assistant found their way into cars, bathroom mirrors, and even smoke alarms.

And while initially it felt a little gimmicky, it actually solves one of the major niggling points of the smart home: you want to have access to your voice assistant in every room but don’t really want to fill your home with speakers.

The problem with having a house full of speakers is twofold really; firstly, where do they all go? If you’ve just got one sat in a prominent position in your living room, it’s not that big a deal, but once you’ve got one in every room, they feel like an imposing, ever-present entity. This does nothing to assuage the ‘I’m being watched’ fear that many people already have around smart speakers.

Big house, big wallet

The second problem is expense. Even if you have a small two bedroom flat and wanted to have one in every room you’re talking about six speakers; bedroom one, bedroom two, kitchen, bathroom, living room, hallway. 

Now these problems are something that the major players Amazon and Google have obviously considered, and it does feel like Amazon’s range in particular is tailored towards a user that wants to fill their home with speakers.

One of the most common questions that we get asked is ‘Which Amazon speaker is right for me?’ And while it’s an understandable question, it might be more accurate to ask ‘Which Amazon speaker is right for my bedroom?’

There’s the main Echo Plus, which is probably best to think of as the hub (although whether it is actually a fully-featured hub is a conversation for another day) which you’d have in the living room. Then you’ve got the Dot which is the small satellite speaker that’s probably right for the hallway and bathroom. 

The Echo Plus, Echo and Dot

For the kitchen you’d want to Show, with its screen to show you recipes. In the bedrooms you’ll probably want the Spot, with its small screen so that you can do a tannoy video call, and check on your baby, or ask if your partner wants their eggs scrambled or poached.

The Echo Plus is $149 (£139, AU$199), the Dot $49.99 (£49.99, AU$49), the Show $229.99 (£199.99, about AU$290), and the Spot $129.99 (£119, about AU$160). That means a full house set up sets you back a hefty $738.95 (£676.97, about AU$900) just to have Alexa in every room. And that’s a small flat.

Now, if instead of a smart speaker you had a smoke and carbon monoxide detector like the Safe & Sound from FirstAlert with Alexa or Google Home integration, you’d be doubling up on the functionality of an item, ridding yourself of the need for another speaker, and you’d change your smoke alarm from something you buy but hope you never need, to something that is useful on a daily basis.

There may be a trade off in terms of audio quality (we don't know, we haven't heard the alarm's speaker), but given that it's replacing a Dot, it's not like you'd be losing hi-fi sound quality.

Alexa, do I still need a smart speaker?

Likewise, if your fridge was also your smart home hub and a speaker with a screen, you’d be consolidating multiple smart home functions into a device that you already need to have in your home. Samsung was demonstrating this exact thing at CES with the Family Hub fridge.

Now, coming from Samsung, it works with Bixby which (to put it lightly) isn’t the most popular voice assistant out there at the moment, but it's building on the SmartThings smart home hub platform which is industry leading. If Bixby isn’t your thing, it’s only going to be a matter of time before similar offerings with Alexa and Google Assistant integrations are commonplace.

Now, these devices aren’t cheap. Safe & Sound is currently available for preorder in the US at $249.99, which is considerably more than an Echo Dot, but the prices will come down, and over time we predict that this type of integration will become the norm rather than the exception.

The question that this really asks is when everything is a smart speaker, will we need smart speakers that are just speakers at all?

Don’t be fooled: AI-powered tech still needs to prove its intelligence

Sat, 20/01/2018 - 11:30

If you were to wander through the halls at the Consumer Electronics Show 2018 (CES) this year, chances are that one of the phrases you will have heard most often is artificial intelligence (AI). AI is, it appears, this year’s IoT or Cloud. The hot buzzword that every company wants to associate itself with.

Welcome to the inaccurate age of AI

The term has been plastered on marketing material for hundreds of disparate gadgets: Samsung’s massive 8K TVs apparently use AI to upscale lower resolution images for the big screen. Sony has created a new version of the Aibo robot dog, which this time promises more artificial intelligence. Travelmate’s robot suitcase will use AI to drive around and follow its owner wherever they go. Oh, and Kohler has invented Numi, a toilet that has Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant built in - though mercifully, it doesn’t appear to be doing any deep-learning analysis of your, umm, data.

The latest version of the Sony Aibo robotic dog was on show at CES 2018

There does appear to be something real at the heart of all of this marketing copy: it’s clear that it’s an exciting time in the tech industry, as entire product categories are being invented or transformed using these sorts of smart technologies. Products like Amazon’s Alexa, with its accurate voice recognition would have been virtually unimaginable a decade earlier, at least outside of the realms of science fiction. And Google’s ability to pick out objects from photos would have seemed like witchcraft to companies that would previously have paid humans to do the tedious business of adding metadata to images.

But despite all this, it does leave me wondering: is artificial intelligence really what we should be calling this revolution? Because, well, these technologies really aren’t all that intelligent at all.

Sorting AI fact from AI fiction

It’s essentially a definitional problem: For some reason, the industry is hellbent on using AI when what is actually means is machine learning (ML). This is a much more narrow term, referring to what is essentially using trial and error to build a model that’s capable of guessing the answers to discrete questions very accurately.

For example, take image recognition: say you want to build a system that separates pictures of cats from pictures of dogs. All you have to do is feed a ML algorithm enough pictures of cats, telling the system they are cats, and then enough pictures of dogs, telling it they are dogs. It will then build a model of what patterns to look for and eventually, after enough training, you should be able to feed it an unlabelled image, and it will be able to make a fairly accurate guess as to which of the two animals is in the picture.

The trouble is that though this is very impressive, and has only been possible at scale over the last few years because of the collapsing cost and availability of processing power, it isn’t exactly ‘intelligence’, is it?

Beyond the buzzword

Intelligence, of the sort that humans have, is very different and more broadly defined. We’re capable of a wider set of skills. A great example of this comes from an industry-wide group called the AI Index, which is attempting to measure and benchmark progress in AI. In its 2017 report, it says:

“[A] human who can read Chinese characters would likely understand Chinese speech, know something about Chinese culture and even make good recommendations at Chinese restaurants. In contrast, very different AI systems would be needed for each of these tasks.”

In other words, we’re a long way from the sort of generalised artificial intelligence that would be able to do these very different tasks. And we’re even further away from such an intelligence being able to not just carry out those tasks, but also wonder to itself why it is doing them.

Follow the money

So, given the obvious limitations of current technology, why is an entire industry obsessing over the term AI? Why is it suddenly so important? And why is every tech start-up at every major trade show touting its AI capabilities?

Perhaps the answer lies in this one chart (see below), which is again from the AI Index.

Ah yes, that would explain it. If you can frame your start-up as a company that is dabbling in artificial intelligence, it appears as though the investment cash will come flooding in. Around $3bn has been invested in AI start-ups annually following an enormous increase around 2013.

But this doesn’t explain why we’re mislabelling. Why we’re referring to artificial intelligence rather than machine learning. My guess here is simply that AI sounds a whole lot sexier. Think about it, if your competitors are conjuring up images of Tony Stark’s Jarvis or Data from Star Trek, you don’t want to be caught talking about boring old, harder-to-market machine learning instead.

(Machine) learning to walk before we can run

In any case, I think it’s time to exercise more caution when throwing around the label artificial intelligence, and we should save it for when we truly have systems that are approaching a more generalised form of human-like intelligence so that we don’t end up with false or misleading expectations.

Given this real milestone is at least a number of years away, in the meantime I’m going to get back to work on building a machine learning system that can figure out how to easily separate the AI fact from AI fiction.

LG is reportedly preparing a new LG V30 with added AI

Sat, 20/01/2018 - 10:30

The smartphone extravaganza that is Mobile World Congress is coming up fast, and we've just got word of what LG might be planning for the show: an upgraded version of its LG V30 flagship with added artificial intelligence, possibly supplied by Google.

That's according to a report in The Korea Herald, which states that the new phone is going to be called the V30+α or the V30 Alpha. Apparently it's part of a new strategy from LG that's going to see them continue to add new features and extra value to its existing handsets as it continues to compete with the likes of Samsung and Apple.

Other details are very thin on the ground - so thin in fact, that we don't have anything else to tell you about this rumored new handset - but LG will want to have something to show off at MWC 2018 in Barcelona, so this seems like a plausible option.

Looking ahead

We've already heard reports that work on the LG G7 has been completely rebooted as LG looks to make its next flagship the best that it can possibly be. With that in mind, we're unlikely to see LG's premier 2018 smartphone until much later in the year.

And indeed software could be the battleground where the smartphone manufacturers really slug it out over the next 12 months, with hardware designs now all looking so similar across the board. Would you be tempted to buy a new smartphone if its on-board OS was smarter than everyone else's?

Google is being tipped as the company providing the LG V30 Alpha with its extra AI smarts, but we'd expect Google to save its best stuff for the Pixel range. Whatever the truth of the matter, we should find out when MWC 2018 kicks off at the end of February.

Via Android Central

Best Bitcoin wallets for Android in 2018

Sat, 20/01/2018 - 10:00

Bitcoin (BTC) was originally invented as a decentralized and easy-to-use payment system. To this end there are a huge amount of wallet applications available for Android phones and devices, allowing you to take your BTC with you on the move.

In this guide, you'll discover five of the most popular Bitcoin wallets for Android available today. While we've tried to select apps that are as simple to use as possible, if you do have a large amount of BTC you may want to choose a wallet with more security features such as GreenBits. If you only have a small amount of Bitcoin and just want to test the water, you can get started immediately with apps like Bitcoin Wallet.

Bitcoin isn't the only cryptocurrency on the market today. If you hold any other kind of virtual currency, or would like to exchange some of your coins, you may prefer a multi-currency wallet such as Coinomi.

When picking a wallet that's right for you, whatever choice you make, we strongly suggest you stick to the ones available either in the Google Play store or the F-Droid repository, as these are less likely to contain malware.

Electrum is well-known in the Bitcoin world as one of the most popular 'thin clients' for storing Bitcoins, and the Android app doesn't disappoint. After downloading, your wallet is generated using a 'seed' of 12 random words, which you must write down. If anything happens to your Android device, you can then use this seed to restore your wallet along with your BTC. Your 'private key' is not locked in to Electrum and you can export your BTC to another wallet if you wish.

The Electrum Bitcoin Wallet for Android takes security seriously: your seed and private keys never leave your device. During setup you're also asked to create a 6-digit PIN which is used to confirm payments. If you already use the desktop version of Electrum, you can even set up a 'watching only' wallet on your phone which lets you view your balance and receive BTC – but not send them.

The most recent version of Electrum Bitcoin Wallet comes bundled with its own QR scanner to easily capture wallet addresses and send payments. To receive BTC, just tap on the 'Receive' section to display a handy QR code for others to scan. This feature is only compatible with the ZXing QR Scanner. If you use another app to scan codes, be warned that this may cause compatibility issues.

Coinomi Wallet was originally created in 2015 and has since developed a solid reputation as a great wallet for storing not only Bitcoin but other cryptocurrencies, including Litecoin, Dash, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, not to mention any amount of Ether tokens. During setup you can choose which coins to display in the handy 'overview' section which lists the current market price and value of each currency.

Like Electrum, your wallet addresses are generated using a 'master seed' of 12 random words which never leaves your device. You can use this to restore your wallet balance for all of your coins should anything happen to your device. Coinomi offers the option to set a password during setup rather than a mandatory PIN as with Electrum. If you choose not to set a password, make sure your Android device has screen lock enabled and is encrypted.

Coinomi has integrated support for exchanging different coins using either of the services Shapeshift or Changelly for a small fee. User reviews have reported occasional issues with this whereby transactions don't confirm for some time, although this wasn't an issue during our own tests.

As of January 2018, Coinomi also no longer appears to be open source. This means that it's very difficult to know if there are any undisclosed security bugs or backdoors in the software.


Mycelium is one of the most highly acclaimed Bitcoin wallets around. The website claims that Mycelium won the ‘Best Mobile App’ award from Blockchain.info in 2014, and that there's no wallet which has more stars from reviews on Google Play.

Mycelium is entirely open source, which means it's much easier to check for any software bugs, and also near-impossible for developers to include hidden backdoors to steal your BTC.

The interface is laid out in very simple fashion with buttons to send and receive BTC as well as scan in QR codes. Mycelium also has a built-in address book for making payments.

The settings section of Mycelium contains a massive arsenal of security features. First and foremost is the security PIN which you can set so that Mycelium requests it each time you make payments. The app also supports sweeping private keys from paper wallets, as well as 'cold storage' wallets which will only display your balance, and cannot be used to send BTC.

Although there's no desktop equivalent of Mycelium, you can use it with hardware wallets like Trezor to digitally 'sign' transactions. This makes it much harder for anyone to steal your Bitcoins.

At the time of writing Mycelium doesn't support Segwit. You can read more info about what this is and why it matters here. However, this should not affect everyday transactions.


GreenBits is a secure and open source Bitcoin wallet. It is truly cross-platform in that as well as being available for Android, there's also a GreenAddress Chrome extension allowing you to manage your BTC from any device running Google’s browser.

If a person or company supports the GreenBits wallet service, BTC can be sent without needing to wait for confirmation via the Blockchain (which can take hours or days), allowing for near-instant payments. Each payment also has a unique 'hash' preventing fraudsters from spending the same coins twice.

During setup, a 24-word mnemonic is created which you can use to restore your BTC on another machine if anything happens to your Android device. The app also prompts you to set up payment confirmation via two-factor authentication.

GreenBits is secured via a PIN which you create during setup. If you fail to enter the PIN correctly three times, your wallet's decryption key will be destroyed. After that, the only way to recover your BTC is by re-entering the 24-word mnemonic. 

This makes for a very secure wallet, although the setup process might be a little intimidating for newer users who only hold a small amount of Bitcoin. The good news is that once you have secured your wallet, the interface is very easy to navigate. BTC can be sent by entering an address or scanning a QR code.


With BTC transaction fees skyrocketing at present, users may also be concerned that there's no built-in feature to manage these either. Bitcoin Wallet simply informs you what the transaction fee will be.

The developer of the free and open source Bitcoin Wallet claims that its Android app is the oldest in existence, and that it's one of the easiest ways to get started with Bitcoin.

Unlike other wallets which require you to set up a PIN or write down a seed, you can use Bitcoin Wallet immediately after installation. The interface couldn't be any clearer – simply click 'Send' or 'Receive' to manage your BTC. There's even a handy address book to keep track of your favorite payment destinations. Your current balance is displayed in mBtc (millibitcoin) by default, as well as your local fiat currency, but you can change this in the app’s settings.

This extra simplicity comes at the price of security, however: anyone with access to your device could open the app and steal your Bitcoins. Your private keys, which are used to send payments, are stored securely on your Android device, but there doesn't seem to be an easy way to recover your BTC if anything happens to the device itself.

The app does, however, support 'sweeping' of paper wallets – in other words, scanning the private key of a Bitcoin paper wallet to empty it and add the BTC balance to the wallet app.

Here's another sign the Apple HomePod could launch soon

Sat, 20/01/2018 - 00:30

After months of anticipation, Apple may finally be on the verge of releasing its HomePod smart speaker. Earlier today we reported that clues along the Apple supply line suggest that the device might ship in February, and this afternoon word dropped that Apple had finally gained approval from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for the device.

In the official FCC filing, the device is referred to as the "Apple Inc. Wireless Speaker," with a code name of A1639. Accompanying product diagrams almost certainly confirm that it's the same device that we've seen discussed since June of last year.

The approval clears the way for Apple to start selling the device on US shelves, and FCC approvals are often considered a reliable indicator that a new Apple product will be heading our way soon. (In some cases, though, as with product A1844, the approved device turns out to be something as mundane as a door lock that was intended for Apple's new campus.)

As MacRumors notes, for instance, the iPhone X secured FCC approval on October 4 and was available to the public beginning November 3.

A long way to midsummer

It's possible that we won't see that quick of a turnaround for the HomePod, but the FCC approval suggests that Apple might meet its updated "Early 2018" HomePod release date for customers in the US, the UK and Australia after all. 

As a downside, an "Early 2018" release window would still be applicable months after the current rough winter is only a memory. Other complications that prevent the HomePod from releasing in a timely manner could also still be on the horizon, of course.

Considering that smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and the Echo Dot already saw massive sales last December, Apple should probably get its latest device in homes before it gets left in the wake. Here's to hoping the February rumors have some truth to them.

The hottest PC gaming gear to look forward to in 2018

Fri, 19/01/2018 - 21:53

The only thing better than the Ultra HD graphics and silky-smooth gameplay that PC gaming affords is all the cool gear surrounding your computer. From keyboards to mice, monitors, gaming chairs and headsets, PC gaming hardware goes much farther than your main rig.

While we’re all still lusting after that ultra-wide gaming monitor or fancy keyboard, there are always new products to pine after. This year at CES 2018, we got our first glimpse of some of the most desirable pieces of gaming gear we’ve seen yet.

Asus Bezel-Free Kit

Multi-monitor setups for PC gaming can be amazing, especially for flight simulators and racing games but the only thing that sucks is seeing gaps between each of your screens. Asus’ Bezel-Free monitor kit aims to eliminate the problem by optically merging two or more screens into a seamless picture. 

Because it only uses prisms and the magic of light refraction, they can be slipped between practically any monitors with thin bezels and require no electronic control or power to work. If you’re already using a dual or triple monitor setup, this is the easiest way to DIY an ultra-wide screen rather than outright buying a whole new display.

Expected: Late 2018

HP Omen X 65 BFGD

Nvidia Big Format Gaming Displays made a huge splash at CES 2018, and we came away most impressed by the HP version: the Omen X 65 BFGD. Just looking at specifications that include a 65-inch panel, 4K resolution, HDR compliancy, a 120Hz refresh rate and 1 millisecond response rate, it’s hard not to be wowed. This truly is the ultimate display for PC gaming.

Expected: Fall 2018

Nvidia GeForce Now for PC beta

While this might not be a physical bit of kit, Nvidia GeForce Now coming to PC is something everyone will love. This gaming streaming service turns every Windows laptop, desktop and tablet into a gaming PC – whether it be a lowly netbook or a top of the line Ultrabook, almost anyone can access Nvidia’s extensive online PC game library.

Expected: Available now

Corsair Dark Core RGB SE & MM1000 Qi

We’ve seen a plenty of wireless mice and even a few wireless charging mice, but the Dark Core RGB SE is the first Qi-charging gaming mouse in the world. When paired with Corsair’s new MM1000 Qi wireless charging mouse pad, you can practically run the Dark Core RGB SE forever. As a bonus, the whole wireless charging setup is fully compatible with Qi-charging phones, including the latest iPhone X and Samsung Galaxy Note 8.

Expected: Available now

Cooler Master MasterKeys MK851

The Cooler Master MasterKeys MK851 might just look like another RGB backlit mechanical keyboard, but it comes with the unique feature of analog keys. Modern keyboards are fully digital inputs, but on its latest product, Cooler Master has included eight analog keys around and including the WASD keys.

These analog switches allow you to lightly press keys to move characters around more slowly. Alternatively, they could act like physical pedals for racing games and many more precise controls we’ve yet to even imagine.

Expected: Mid 2018

Zotac AMP Box

We’ve seen prototypes of Zotac external GPU box for well over a year now, so it was exciting to finally see it in its final form at CES 2018. Unlike the Razer Core and Asus ROG Station 2, the Zotac AMP Box is quite a bit smaller and designed for only mini GPUs. That said, this is one of the finest GPU boxes built completely out of aluminum while also featuring a fully customizable RGB lighting setup.

Expected: Early 2018

Razer Nommo Pro

Computer speakers are often overlooked for a PC gaming setup, but Razer’s new Razer Nommo Pro delivers an incredible audio bang that headphones could never muster. The 2.1 THX certified speaker system features a Dupont Kevlar coated driver that projects solid mids, while silk-woven tweeters produce smooth and balanced highs.

Meanwhile, a cylindrical downward-firing subwoofer is designed to generate airflow for consistent, deep tones. Put all together, it’s one of the fullest-sounding and loudest PC gaming speaker systems we’ve ever heard.

Expected: Early 2018

Vertagear PL4500 RGB Gaming Chair

We never thought it would be possible, but Vertagear has integrated RGB lighting into a gaming chair. The PL4500 RGB comes with lighting built into the harness through-holes and underneath its base for an underglow effect. The whole thing is powered by batteries – that Vertagear claims can power its RGB gaming chair for 30 hours – and it can even wirelessly sync effects and colors to your PC through NZXT CAM. It’s the perfect piece of furniture to complement your RGB lit PC, keyboard, mouse, mousepad and room lighting.

Expected: Spring 2018

SteelSeries Rival 600

The SteelSeries Rival 600 is one of the first dual-sensor gaming mice we’ve seen. Going with two sensors not only makes it more accurate, it also reduces sensor drifting when you lift off with your mouse. This gaming mouse also comes with eight 4g weights, allowing users to increase its weight from 96g all the way to 128g.

Expected: Available now

MSI Optix MPG27CQ

We’ve seen RGB lighting come to gaming monitors before, but the MSI Optix MPG27CQ might be the first display to actually put it to good use. Rather than putting the lights behind the screen or give monitors an underglow effect, they’re right below the panel. This way users can set lights to signal ability cooldowns and other in-game timers or Discord chat notifications. We’ve seen the same sort of utility come to keyboards, but it makes much more sense to get this information on a monitor you’re already staring at.

Expected: Late 2018

Alexa voice commands are finally coming to the Android Alexa app

Fri, 19/01/2018 - 21:07

Fittingly enough, support for Amazon's Alexa voice assistant is finally coming to the Alexa app for Android phones, although it's currently a bit of a gimmick.

Rather than being able to talk to Alexa at any time much as you would through Google Assistant, Alexa only works on Android devices if you have the Alexa app open, as Android Police reports. But hey, small steps, right?

It's not the first time that Alexa has been available on a smartphone, but in the past it only appeared on devices like the Huawei Mate 9 or Motorola Moto X4 as a result of special partnership deals.

The new update, though, which is expected to roll out over the course of the next few days on both the Google Play store and Amazon's own app store, essentially brings Amazon's increasingly beloved voice assistant to almost any phone.

Support for iOS is also expected to come soon, although no specific timeline was given.

Many voices, many choices

Amazon's Alexa is clearly a hit, as seen in the way that the Alexa app topped the iOS App Store's free charts for many hours after Christmas morning. Understandably, though, Amazon has had a rougher time bringing Alexa to smartphones owing to the dominance of Apple's Siri and Google Assistant.

The upcoming update improves that situation somewhat, as in the past the Alexa app was mainly just a hub for interacting with the settings of various Amazon Echo devices.  

Now, though, you'll be able to control some aspects of your phone through Alexa, such as music volume controls and text message opposition (so long as you keep the app open). 

Even if Alexa were more "free" through the app, it'd still lack the deep smartphone hardware integration enjoyed by Siri and Google Assistant.

Maybe Amazon is hoping that everyone is thinking it's just so cool that they'll beg for iPhones and Samsung Galaxy devices to support Alexa in addition to the usual suspects. Stranger things have happened.

The cost of Amazon Prime is about to go up for some users

Fri, 19/01/2018 - 20:20

A single day after we reported that Amazon is seeking cash-generating blockbusters for distribution on Amazon Prime Video, Amazon has announced that it's hiking up the monthly subscription rate for Amazon Prime. 

As of today, if you're paying the monthly rate for Amazon Prime in the US, expect to pay $12.99 during the next billing cycle beginning on February 18. That's an 18% hike from the previous price of $10.99. 

The price increase also affects Amazon's monthly plan for students, which will also jump 18% from $5.49 to $6.49.

In a email to TechRadar, Amazon confirmed that the price hike only affects US customers.

Fortunately, the annual rate of $99 will stay the same, as will the standalone $8.99 monthly fee for Amazon Prime Video for those who wish to enjoy Amazon's video content without paying for the shipping and other perks. 

Amazon didn't give a concrete reason for the price increase, and instead simply played up the appeal and wide range of services available through Amazon Prime in a prepared statement.

"Prime provides an unparalleled combination of shipping, shopping and entertainment benefits, and we continue to invest in making Prime even more valuable for our members," an Amazon spokesperson said.

Amazon also pointed out that the number of items eligible for two-day shipping recently jumped from 20 million to 100 million, and it called attention to original viewing content on Prime Video such as "the Golden Globe-winning The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" and The Grand Tour.

Up we go

The last time Amazon Prime saw a price increase was in 2014, when the annual rate jumped from $79 to $99. The boost was seen as controversial at the time, but, as these things go, it's essentially been accepted as business as usual.

That's partly because Amazon introduced the new monthly plan that's now seeing the price increase a little under two years ago, offering greater flexibility to folks who just want to try out Prime for a while or don't have $99 to throw down all at once.

Unfortunately, with the new price hike, monthly customers will end up paying a total of around $156 per year if they pay the monthly fee throughout the entire year. 

  • On the fence about Amazon Prime? Here's our explanation of why picking it up is a good idea.

Could this be our first look at LG’s foldable phone?

Fri, 19/01/2018 - 20:16

There's more proof today that LG is poised to launch foldable phone, just a few months after company execs told us at last year's MWC that they could release a foldable phone in the next two years. Time certainly moves fast in tech.

We're now seeing patents that hint at the beginnings of LG's flexible future, and there are two different flexible phone designs to pour over thanks to diagrams published on January 12 with the World Intellectual Property Organization.

LG’s patent shows off a fold-out phone with one seamless display that spans across the two sections. It's unlike the foldable ZTE Axon M, which utilizes two independent screens that join together with a slight gap. 

Everything we're seeing so far makes LG's on-paper concept quite the looker in terms of its minimal bezels and a consistent tablet-like display. You still have to wonder if the inevitable crease in the display will be distracting.

Based on the patents, it’s tough to tell exactly how the models differ, if at all, on their insides. But as GSMinfo points out, their outer shells take two different paths.

Something to look forward to in 2018?

One version of what could be LG’s rumored flexible phone shows the camera facing the rear, with a similar circular design on the front that might act as a front facing camera or a small screen that can show off notifications. Additionally, this patent shows the time on the front, though it’s hard to tell if it will be a full-functioning display or just a small spot designated for telling the time.

Credit: LG

The other version is far more interesting, looking to possibly feature a casing that rolls back to show off a vertical take on the second display introduced in the LG V10. Here, we might expect to have access to music controls and other light-touch interactions, like weather and checking out text messages.

It’s possible that we’ll see this foldable phone from LG popping up this year, but how early? MWC 2018 is coming soon, and frankly, that seems a little too soon to expect such a true, ambitious-looking take on the flexible phone. 

We’re more likely to see the LG G7, or whatever the company has next in its flagship, before it lands.

VPN tunnels explained: how to keep your internet data secure

Fri, 19/01/2018 - 19:00

With growing censorship and regulations threatening global internet freedom and security, in turn, we’ve seen an increasing number of services become available to protect your online web browsing.

Virtual Private Networks (or VPNs) have become increasingly popular in recent years for their ability to bypass government censorship and geo-blocked websites and services, and do so without giving away who is doing the bypassing.

For a VPN to do this, it creates what is known as a tunnel between you and the internet, encrypting your internet connection and stopping ISPs, hackers, and even the government from nosing through your browsing activity.

What is a VPN Tunnel?

When you connect to the internet with a VPN, the VPN creates a connection between you and the internet that surrounds your internet data like a tunnel, encrypting the data packets your device sends.

While technically created by a VPN, the tunnel on its own can’t be considered private unless it’s accompanied with encryption strong enough to prevent governments or ISPs from intercepting and reading your internet activity.

The level of encryption the VPN tunnel has depends on the type of tunneling protocol used to encapsulate and encrypt the data going to and from your device and the internet.

Types of VPN tunneling protocols

There are many types of VPN tunneling protocols that offer varying levels of security and other features. The most commonly used tunneling protocols in the VPN industry are PPTP, L2TP/IPSec, SSTP, and OpenVPN. Let’s take a closer look at them.

1. PPTP

Point to Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) is one of the oldest protocols still being used by VPNs today. Developed by Microsoft and released with Windows 95, PPTP encrypts your data in packets and sends them through a tunnel it creates over your network connection.

PPTP is one of the easiest protocols to configure, requiring only a username, password, and server address to connect to the server. It’s one of the fastest VPN protocols because of its low encryption level.

While it boasts fast connection speeds, the low level of encryption makes PPTP one of the least secure protocols you can use to protect your data. With known vulnerabilities dating as far back as 1998, and the absence of strong encryption, you’ll want to avoid using this protocol if you need solid online security and anonymity – government agencies and authorities like the NSA have been able to compromise the protocol’s encryption.

2. L2TP/IPSec

Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) is used in conjunction with Internet Protocol Security (IPSec) to create a more secure tunneling protocol than PPTP. L2TP encapsulates the data, but isn’t adequately encrypted until IPSec wraps the data again with its own encryption to create two layers of encryption, securing the confidentiality of the data packets going through the tunnel.

L2TP/IPSec provides AES-256 bit encryption, one of the most advanced encryption standards that can be implemented. This double encapsulation does, however, make it a little slower than PPTP. It can also struggle with bypassing restrictive firewalls because it uses fixed ports, making VPN connections with L2TP easier to block. L2TP/IPSec is nonetheless a very popular protocol given the high level of security it provides.

3. SSTP

Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol, named for its ability to transport internet data through the Secure Sockets Layer or SSL, is supported natively on Windows, making it easy for Windows users to set up this particular protocol. SSL makes internet data going through SSTP very secure, and because the port it uses isn’t fixed, it is less likely to struggle with firewalls than L2TP.

SSL is also used in conjunction with Transport Layer Security (TLS) on your web browsers to add a layer to the site you’re visiting to create a secure connection with your device. You can see this implemented whenever the website you visit starts with ‘https’ instead of ‘http’.

As a Windows-based tunneling protocol, SSTP is not available on any other operating system, and hasn’t been independently audited for potential backdoors built into the protocol.

4. OpenVPN

Saving the best for last, we have OpenVPN, a relatively recent open source tunneling protocol that uses AES 256-bit encryption to protect data packets. Because the protocol is open source, the code is vetted thoroughly and regularly by the security community, who are constantly looking for potential security flaws.

The protocol is configurable on Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS, although third-party software is required to set up the protocol, and the protocol can be hard to configure. After configuration, however, OpenVPN provides a strong and wide range of cryptographic algorithms that will allow users to keep their internet data secure and to even bypass firewalls at fast connection speeds.

Which tunneling protocol should I use?

Even though it’s the fastest, you should steer clear of PPTP if you want to keep your internet data secure. L2TP/IPSec provides 256-bit encryption but is slower and struggles with firewalls given its fixed ports. SSTP, while very secure, is only available on Windows, and closed off from security checks for built-in backdoors.

OpenVPN, with its open source code, strong encryption, and ability to bypass firewalls, is the best tunneling protocol to keep your internet data secure. While it requires third-party software that isn’t available on all operating systems, for the most secure VPN connection to the internet, you’ll want to use the OpenVPN protocol.

A good VPN service should offer you the choice of at least these four types of tunneling protocols when going online. We’ve compiled a list of the best VPNs in the industry for you to get started on protecting your internet data. 

Fortnite vs PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds: which is the game for you?

Fri, 19/01/2018 - 15:58

Towards the end of 2017 it was abundantly clear that 'battle royale' was the game genre of the moment, with Fortnite Battle Royale and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds being the most popular games in that genre. 

Now that 2018 is well underway, we're only seeing the popularity and scope of both titles increase, but which game is best for you?

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds was the first of the two games to be released, and it took the PC gaming and streaming worlds by storm. Its growth has been nothing short of astounding, and towards the end of 2017 it was boasting an Xbox One port and 3 million concurrent players.

Of course, any fan of battle royale games knows that you don't get to be alone for long, and PUBG's competition soon came along in the form of Epic Games' Fornite. With similar gameplay it's proven to be tough competition, and in the last month alone it's increased its playerbase by an incredible 10 million. 

And so the battle royale of the battle royales continues.

On the surface, Fortnite and PUBG share many similarities but they have significant differences in content and style which make them feel notably different to play. 

To help you decide which game is best for you right now, we've compared the different offerings of Fortnite and PUBG below. Which will be the last game standing?

Graphics

PUBG and Fortnite are both battle royale games with similar mechanics, but when it comes to visuals they’re very distinct. Which one you find is better, however, is largely down to personal preference. 

While PUBG goes for a gritty militarism that feels more realistic, Fortnite is much more colorful and cartoonish – kind of in the vein of titles like Overwatch. It’s really down to you which kind of world you prefer to play in.  

Maps

First things first: PUBG's maps are larger than Fortnite’s. 

But bigger doesn't always mean better, and there are positives and negatives to both games' maps.

Being so large, vehicles are required for traversal in PUBG, particularly if you're unlucky enough to land far from the safe zone. Unfortunately, using vehicles tends to draw the attention of other players, so if you're forced into using one, getting across a PUBG map can sometimes feel like a tense dash that'll leave you reaching for some deodorant. 

Fornite’s smaller map means you have less space to play but it’s much easier to traverse ,and matches tend to be much shorter. 

A big plus in PUBG's favor is that it offers two maps – Erangel and Miramar. The map you play in is random, but the variety here does keep things interesting and forces players to stay on their toes. 

It’s worth noting, however, that Fortnite has recently received an update which adds five new locations to its map. These new locations range from underground mines to built-up cityscapes, and these force players to take different approaches to combat thanks to their different layouts. 

Each game, then, takes a different approach to offering variety. While PUBG prefers to opt for large individual maps, Fortnite has decided to expand and improve its existing map. Fortnite's developers have, however, said that more maps will be added to the game, just “not right away”. 

It’ll take some time to determine which game is taking the better approach. But at the moment it seems fair to say that that those looking for long-lasting tense matches with plenty of risk-taking on sprawling varied maps should opt for PUBG, while those looking for something a little more contained and faster-paced may prefer Fortnite’s single, densely-packed island.

Gameplay

Both of these games are battle royales, and as a result they feel pretty similar in terms of gameplay and goal: do whatever it takes to survive as the map shrinks around you. Whether you like to play solo, with a friend, or with a group of your friends, both titles will give you this option. 

But there are big differences, the first of these being weapons and items. In a battle royale game weapons and items are key, but Fortnite and PUBG take slightly different approaches to them. 

Befitting of its gritty realistic visuals and large maps, PUBG has far more items and weapons than Fortnite. That’s not to say Fornite is short on weapons — there are a range to choose from, and Epic Games has stated that it'll be adding more in the future. But its system is less full, complex and deep than PUBG's and fans of serious shooters may find it less satisfying. 

Another big difference between the games is that Fortnite includes construction elements – something which is probably much more achievable and workable thanks to the game’s contained map and shorter game times. 

When the game map shrinks to the point where things are coming to a close, Fortnite players can use all of the construction items they’ve picked up over the course of the match to build structures which will afford them protection or vantage points. It is worth noting, though, that all cover in Fortnite can be destroyed. 

In some ways this encourages players to face up to one another in the end and finish things. It’s hard to hide when you’re building something, especially on a small colorful game map, so finding other players and being found can be much faster. You could, of course, not build anything, but then you run the risk of being at a disadvantage if other players have gained the higher ground. 

Because of its construction mechanic, Fortnite matches tend to be more direct in their closing moments, though not always. 

In PUBG, when the map has shrunk down, players must use the world around them to move to higher ground or duck for cover. Generally, PUBG matches are much more tense and stressful affairs. 

Because you can’t build your own vantage point or protection, you have to move to an advantageous position fast or you'll end up dead. And because you can’t use player-made structures to safely pin-point the locations of other players, the chances of someone hiding in an abandoned house waiting to ambush you are much higher. 

This tends to mean PUBG players are far more cautious and matches can last far longer, while feeling far more intense in their final moments. 

Which has more players?

When you’re playing online multiplayer games, naturally you’re going to want to see a highly-populated lobby. 

At a certain point, though, specific numbers are kind of pointless. As long as the game is popular, you’re going to encounter players to fight and run from. That’s where we’re at with PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and Fortnite at the moment. No matter which game you go into, you’re going to find an active and large playerbase.

However, it’s perhaps worth noting how trends are swinging at the moment. Fortnite has recently seen an explosive growth. Between December 2017 and January 2018 it’s managed to gain another 10 million players, taking its number to 40 million with a record of 2 million concurrent users. There’s also been an upswing in the number of streamers turning to Fortnite and away from PUBG. 

In December 2017, however, PubG managed to hit 3 million concurrent users, which is an incredible amount. You’ll understand, then, why we’re saying player numbers and popularity probably shouldn’t be the driving force behind any final decision you make. 

Platforms

At the moment PUBG is available on PC and Xbox One while Fornite can be played on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

Performance seems to be fairly consistent across console and PC for Fornite (probably down, at least in part, to Fortnite’s larger budget and development team), PUBG has been criticized for its performance on Xbox One and the Xbox One X. 

It should be noted, though, that patches are being issued to address this so the game’s console performance should improve over time. Whether or not PUBG will ever be ported to PlayStation 4 hasn’t been confirmed but it’s not an impossibility.

PC is a good option for either game, but those who prefer console gaming should almost certainly look to Fortnite first at the moment. 

Price

If you’re a complete battle royale novice, then you might be glad to know that Fortnite’s Battle Royale base game is free-to-play on all platforms, so it’s a good way to dip your toes into the genre. 

Epic Games has taken a service approach to its title – the game is free-to-download and updates are frequent, with many of the changes being based on player feedback. 

With the base game being free, there are, of course, options to pay. Players can buy season passes which give in-game rewards and offer cosmetic loot rewards to players who complete daily challenges. 

The battle pass is really only worth the money if you're willing to plug some time into the game, as the more you play, the more rewards you unlock. However, it doesn't give any kind of advantage over other players as Epic Games has promised that no items that can be purchased will ever offer any competitive advantage.

PUBG can be purchased on Steam and on Xbox from £24.99/$29.99/AU $39.95.

So, which one should I play?

On the surface Fornite and PUBG are very similar games. They’re both battle royales, they both allow you to play alone or with others, they both feature shrinking maps and the ultimate goal is to be the last player standing. 

However, on closer inspection they offer very different experiences and it depends entirely on player preference which one is better. Both have massive playerbases, so you could hardly call either of them bad. They simply have different appeals. 

If you’re looking for colorful aesthetics, accessibility and fun on console then Fortnite is the one to choose. For those unfamiliar with the concept of battle royales it’s certainly a good initial option – not only is it free, it’s easier to get to grips with and its shorter matches make it a more casual experience.

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds on the other hand is for those looking for something a little more serious. Its grittier visuals, longer match times, larger maps and more complex weapon and item system mean it’ll take more of your time to learn and play. For serious shooter fans who prefer realism and accuracy, PUBG takes the chicken dinner. 

Whichever one you choose, just prepare yourself for a lot of stress and know that any victories will be hard-earned. 

GTA 6 release date, news and rumors: mapping the path to Grand Theft Auto 6

Fri, 19/01/2018 - 15:46

Update: With work on Red Dead Redemption 2 underway, we're not expecting Grand Theft Auto 6 any time soon. But we are expecting it eventually. According to reputable industry analyst Michael Pachter, the eventually we're waiting for could be as far away as 2022.

In an interview with Gaming Bolt, Pachter said that he thinks a 2020 announcement with a 2021 release would be the best case scenario, while a 2021 announcement with a 2022 release or later would be more likely. 

Given the ongoing success of Grand Theft Auto 5 and the ongoing work on Red Dead Redemption 2, we imagine Rockstar isn't in a massive rush to make any Grand Theft Auto announcements at the moment. 

Original article continues below...

Rockstar Games may just have announced Red Dead Redemption 2, but that doesn’t stop us hankering after GTA 6. 

Grand Theft Auto is one of the biggest game franchises around and we haven’t had a new one for over three years now. 

So while we wait for some cowboy action from RDR2, it’s time to speculate exactly what form GTA 6 will take, what we’ll be doing and when and where we’ll be doing it. 

We’ve waded through the internet mines to discover the golden gossip nuggets about the GTA 6 release date, story and all the news for your reading pleasure. 

Cut to the chase
  • What is it? The highly anticipated next entry in the Grand Theft Auto series
  • When it is out? That’s the internet’s biggest mystery
  • Will it launch on PC? Both GTA 4 and 5 made their way to PC (eventually), so we’ve got all our appendages crossed
GTA 6 release date - When can I play it?

With Red Dead Redemption out in “Fall 2017”, you’re going to be waiting a little while longer for a GTA 6 release date. 

According to some reports, we could be waiting until 2020 for the next Grand Theft Auto, which would make sense. Rockstar has supported GTA Online, the multiplayer component of GTA 5, since the game launched back in September 2013 with regular content updates. 

If Red Dead Redemption 2’s online component is in any way similar to GTA Online, no doubt Rockstar will be busy with that for a few years to come. 

After three years of GTA Online, the company was ready to do Red Dead Redemption 2, so perhaps three years after that we’ll see GTA 6 – slap bang in 2020. 

Basically, expecting any news of GTA 6 any time soon is optimistic.

GTA 6 trailer – When can I watch one?

The thing about Rockstar Games is that it’s incredibly secretive. No trailer is getting out of that game studio unless someone seriously screwed up. 

Just look what Rockstar did with both GTA 5 and Red Read Redemption 2. It teased an announcement a few days before dropping the first trailer for either game. 

If there’s a GTA 6 trailer, you’ll know about it; the internet will explode.

GTA 6 news – What do we know so far?

What we do know about GTA 6 is that is it actually in development, even if it’s just in the early stages. 

Rockstar President Leslie Benzies teased the game in an interview back in 2013 with Develop magazine. 

“We don’t know what GTA 6 will be, but we’ve got some ideas,” said Benzies in the interview. 

Okay, so it’s not much, but it’s certainly a snippet of solid information direct from the source. 

Benzies went on to talk about what kind of ideas get the creative juices flowing over at Rockstar. 

“We’ve got about 45 years’ worth of ideas we want to do,” he added. “We’ll pick the right ones.”

“It comes from the idea first. Where it is going to be set is the first question. That then defines the missions; you’re doing different things in LA than in New York or Miami.

“The map and story get worked up together, and the story is a basic flow of how it works out so you can layer the mission in.”

We’re just pleased that Rockstar has so many ideas for what it wants to do with GTA 6. We just hope it sorts them into some kind of organised system and gets that game to us sharpish. 

GTA 6 map - Where will GTA 6 be set?

Although there haven’t been any concrete reports as yet, every online titbit and juicy gossip morsel is pointing towards GTA 6’s map being absolutely massive. 

We’re even not talking city-size massive, we’re talking potentially the entire of the United States massive. 

Some rumors are suggesting that GTA 6 may end up spanning the entirety of the US, with some kind of teleportation system that cuts down the journey time between cities. 

There are even some incredibly exciting rumours that Rockstar Games might have a ‘70s theme, so crack out those old bell-bottoms and disco balls.

But there’s also another rumour that’s gathering strength, which would put GTA 6 a little closer to Rockstar Games’ British home – a London setting. 

The reports actually begun with a comment from Rockstar Games’ co-founder Dan Houser:

“At the moment, it feels like GTA’s DNA is contemporary-ish, American-ish, English-speaking-ish, because that’s what it has been… But that doesn’t necessarily limit it to those, that’s just what we’ve done so far.”

Rockstar Games sources suggest that London is the only non-US location to be whispered as a potential GTA setting.  

For our money, we think a return to Vice City is on the cards, which would tie in to the 70s setting rumor mentioned above. 

The GTA3 trilogy was set across three locations, Liberty City, Vice City, and San Andreas. This mirrored the original Grand Theft Auto Game, which was also set across the same three locations. 

The most recent Grand Theft Auto games, GTA4 and GTA5, have so far been set in Liberty City and San Andreas respectively, meaning that Vice City is the only location yet to be explored by the recent games. 

The only question now is whether Rockstar will be tempted to complete the set. 

GTA 6 rumors

1. A female protagonist

When asked about a female protagonist for GTA 5, instead of three male heroes (or anti-heroes), Rockstar co-founder and lead writer Dan Houser said in an interview with The Guardian back in 2013 that a female lead wasn’t really on the table, but not intentionally.

“We didn’t really think about it this time,” Houser said. “That’s not to say that we couldn’t or we wouldn’t. This character set is just what came to us: it wasn’t, ‘we’ve got X and Y so we need Z’. We weren’t trying to do it off a checklist – I don’t think that will ever give you something that’s believable or engaging.”

“In the future, could we do a game with a female lead? Of course. We just haven’t found the right game for it yet, but it’s one of the things that we always think about.”

“It didn’t feel natural for this game but definitely for the right game in the future - with the right themes, it could be fantastic. But for GTA 5, this was the organic thing that came up, these were the characters that would display the themes we wanted to think about.”

Fans have long clamoured for a female hero in a Grand Theft Auto game, and the rumours have it that 

Likelihood: Strong. A female lead would be a fantastic choice for GTA 6 and would be a wonderful change from all the murdered prostitutes. 

2. Eva Mendez and Ryan Gosling

Rumours of a female protagonist are super exciting, but there’s more. 

Apparently, Eva Mendez is top of Rockstar’s list for playing said hero

But again, there’s more. There’s a male lead on the list too and it’s none other than global heart-throb Ryan Gosling, who also just happens to be her real-life husband. 

Likelihood: Questionable. GTA is a major gaming franchise that’s incredibly famous, especially outside of the gaming industry, so it’s possible some big names could be involved, but we’re not convinced. 

3. Full support for virtual reality

Another GTA 6 rumour involves virtual reality and according to the online rumblings, you may be able to play the entirety of GTA 6 in VR. 

Specific headsets haven’t been mentioned, but since this is probably just a rumour we’re not that bothered.

Likelihood: Questionable. GTA 6 might have a VR experience attached to it but playing the whole game in virtual reality would be insane. 

Unless we’ve seen huge leaps in virtual reality in the years between now and the GTA 6 release date playing a whole GTA game in VR would prove testing for most stomachs. 

Fast-paced, action-packed and played in long sessions, a VR GTA (in its current form at least) wouldn’t work. 

4. Time travel or another futuristic twist

With the murmurings of a seriously big map for GTA 6, there are also some rumours of time travelling being a major part of the game. 

Yes… seriously.

This isn’t Saints Row we’re talking about, but apparently there may be a futuristic twist to GTA 6. 

According to a report from ChristianToday – really – the game will give players “the taste of time travel” where “teleportation [is] possible within a split-second”. 

Likelihood: Utterly ridiculous. There are hilarious side-missions in GTA games, but having time travelling as a main gameplay mechanic is just not in Rockstar’s DNA. 

Plus, ChristianToday has no screenshots, sources or any kind of proof, so we’re certainly sceptical. 

5. Playing as either a cop or a criminal

Another potential for the GTA 6 storyline is that you have the decision to play either as a cop or as a criminal. Or at least, if GTA 6 adopts the multiple protagonist feature of GTA 5, one of the characters you play as could be a police officer. 

Likelihood: Strong. We could totally see this working, especially with the potential mayhem that could ensue if you’re playing a Trevor-style character half the time and a cop the other. 

The best cheap TV deals in January 2018: 4K TVs for less

Fri, 19/01/2018 - 15:42

Cheap TV deals are on our radar throughout the year as we check through the most reliable retailers to find you the finest bargains every week. 4K TVs have generally taken over nowadays and have come down in price much faster than HD TVs did.

Take a look at our carefully curated selection below. We've split the 4K TV deals into different size categories immediately after our pick for TV Deal of the Week. Whatever your budget, we're sure we can find something for you. Towards the bottom of the page, you'll also find a few HD TV deals (non-4K models). When you compare prices though, you really don't have to pay much more at all to get a modern 4K TV instead.

Now's a great time to upgrade with a cheap 4K TV deal, especially with Netflix, Amazon, BBC and Sky all increasing their 4K content. Nowadays, pretty much every TV comes with Freeview (no more set-top boxes!) and also Smart TV functionality via your home internet - we'll be sure to mention it if they don't though.

TechRadar's cheap TV deal of the week

Cheap 43-49 inch 4K TV deals:

Cheap 50-inch to 58-inch 4K TV deals:

Cheap 60-85-inch 4K TV deals: More large screen TV deals

If you're after more seriously large TV deals, we should warn you, they don't come cheap. However, if you want to see some more large screen TV deals -we're talking about 65 to 85-inch TVs- we'd recommend heading over to John Lewis, Currys and Amazon as they seem to stock more models than most UK retailers.

Extra retailer TV deals links:

Not found the right cheap TV for you today? Or maybe you'd prefer to directly browse the TVs at your favourite retailers instead of our highlights of the best cheap TV deals? We're updating this page on a regular basis, so you may have better look another day. If you want to take a look for yourself now though, here are the direct links to a the full collection of TV deals at multiple stores. 

The best cheap HD TV deals

If the 4K TV deals still look a bit expensive or you simply wont be needing 4K anytime soon, you can still get a great deal on a HD TV. After all, HD still has the picture to dazzle providing you're watching the right content on anything from Netflix to your PS4. Let's have a look at some of the best bargains this week.

Pokemon Stars: all the latest leaks from the confirmed Nintendo Switch game

Fri, 19/01/2018 - 15:41

Update: At the moment the only release date we have for Pokemon on Switch is 2018 at the earliest but a recent Nintendo survey suggests that the game could actually meet a 2018 release date. 

Nintendo Europe has, apparently, sent around a survey to Nintendo fans asking which Switch titles they'd be inclined to buy over the next year. The list contained titles already on the market such as Skyrim and Mario Kart 8, but at the very bottom of the list there was an option to select 'Pokemon RPG'. 

This is, of course, absolutely no guarantee that the game will be released in the next 12 months but we'd like to take it as a good sign that development is in a good enough place for it to be considered a possibility. 

Original article continues below...

Though there’s been no official confirmation that a game explicitly called Pokémon Stars is coming to the Nintendo Switch, we do know that a Pokémon game is coming to the console in the next couple of years. 

There are many possible forms the game could take – it could be some kind of extended cut port of Pokémon Sun and Moon, it could be an entirely new sequel, at the very least we know it's going to be a mainline addition and not just another side title like Pokken Tournament. 

The scenario that’s proving most popular among theorists is that Pokémon Stars will be a port of the 3DS Sun and Moon titles, essentially bringing these games over to the newer console with some new features added (think of it as being the Pokémon Yellow to Sun and Moon's Red and Blue. We’d posit that Eclipse makes more sense as a title than Stars, but that’s besides the point. 

We’ve already laid out exactly why we think the mainline Nintendo 3DS titles would be well-suited to Nintendo’s newest console but beyond our staunch belief that it simply makes sense, there’s been an ever-growing number of rumors that point to the fact that it’s what we’re going to get. 

There is, however, the release of Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon to consider. These were swan song for Pokemon on the Nintendo 3DS and they extended the story of Sun and Moon in an almost-sequel manner. Would it be worth continuing the Alola story to Switch or will Game Freak commemorate a new console with a brand new region and generation. 

Here we've laid out exactly what those rumors are, and we've also thrown in a few things we'd like to see from the first Pokémon Nintendo Switch title. 

Cut to the chase
  • What is it? The now confirmed debut of the Pokémon franchise on Nintendo Switch.
  • When can I play it? It'll be 2018 at the earliest
  • What can I play it on? Nintendo Switch of course!
Release date

We don't have any kind of solid release date for Pokemon on Nintendo Switch but Nintendo's Q1 financial reports have given us a window at the very least. A very wide open window. 

In the company's list of upcoming games it has Pokemon RPG for Nintendo Switch listed as due for release in '2018 or later'. Nintendo did say during E3 that the earliest we could expect to see the game was 2018 so the fact that 2018 is still being entertained as a release year suggests development for the game is progressing at a steady rate but things are probably too early to commit to 2018 definitely.

There's no denying it'd make a great release for the Christmas period in 2018, though. 

The story so far

CEO of the Pokemon Company publicly puts faith in the Switch

In an interview with Bloomberg, The Pokemon Company's CEO, Tsunekazu Ishihara has said that while he originally thought the Nintendo Switch wouldn't be a success, he now realizes his error. 

Ishihara said that he told Nintendo that in the age of the smartphone, no one would want to carry around a games console before adding "it's obvious I was wrong."

"I came to realize the key to a successful game is quite simple - software with absolute quality leads sales of hardware," he said, "Playing style can be flexible if the software is attractive enough.” 

What about his own company's software offering for the console? Ishihara offered what could be seen as a few small hints. 

“With the Switch,“ he said, ”we see it as a chance to create Pokémon that goes deeper and with a higher level of expression. As a result, that makes it an extremely important platform [...] Right now we’re using 7 to 8 inch screens, but on a high-definition TV you can express a whole different world with graphics and sound.”

He also suggested larger scale multiplayer gameplay is being considered: “Until now, games were made as one for one person, but now you can go home and play with everyone - so how do we tackle these themes, and how do we make sure it’s not complicated?” Whether or not that'll be split Joy-Con local multiplayer or something more online based, we can't tell. 

As far as extra Pokemon-themed peripherals for the console, Ishihara wasn't able to offer any confirmation but did say he'd "like to think of that possibility."

Game's developers admit they're feeling the pressure

Considering the yet-to-be named Pokemon Switch title will be the first mainline game in the franchise to come to a home console it's understandable that fans are excited but this means expectations are high.

As a result, the game's developers have admitted they're feeling the pressure. In an interview with Game Informer series director/producer/composer Junichi Masuda and director Shigeru Ohmori said that though it's "really fun" to see "all the excitement for the announcement" it does mean there's "a lot of pressure" on the team. 

Ohmori said that Game Freak is going to to do its utmost to meet a game that's capable of living up to these expectations but asks that fans don't raise them "too high."

Pokemon confirmed for Nintendo Switch at E3 2017

After a long build up of speculation, Nintendo confirmed during its 2017 E3 live stream that a core Pokemon game would be coming to Nintendo Switch. 

Other than the fact that the game is coming, we know nothing else. Nintendo didn't offer a name nor did it offer a release date other than it being more than a year away.

The fact that the release date is so far in the future means it could very well be different from Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon which have been confirmed to be coming to the 3DS later this year. 

This announcement means that the Nintendo Switch is breaking the Nintendo home console curse, whereby only side titles, such as the already confirmed Pokken Tournament, were released while mainline titles stayed on handhelds.

The Pokemon Company and Game Freak had previously said that they were waiting to see how the Nintendo Switch performed and whether or not it would work with the Pokemon series before committing a core game to the console. 

Rumors have been circulating for a number of months about the game, suggesting it might be released under the name Pokemon Stars, but Nintendo offered no comment on this. 

Main series producer, Junichi Masuda, doesn’t discount it and Pokémon Company CEO confirms.

In September 2016, back when the Switch was still known as the NX, Pokémon Company CEO Tsunekazu Ishihara confirmed in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that the company would develop games for the console. 

Later in the year, Pokémon series producer, Junichi Masuda, was less enthusiastic with his commitment to Switch support. However, he did not discount that mainline Pokémon titles were a possibility for the Switch, stating that he was waiting for the console to be released to market to determine whether or not it would benefit from Pokémon .

Then came the Eurogamer report

Adding fuel to the rumor fire, Eurogamer published a report late last year that said multiple sources had confirmed a new version of Pokémon Sun and Moon was being developed for the Switch under the code named Pokémon Stars. 

According to the report, this third title was developed alongside Sun and Moon for 3DS and already had feature working versions of Sun and Moon content. 

Development was said to be slowed down in the run up to the launch of the 3DS titles but after their release would resume and work would begin on new features. 

The report finished up by stating that though the game had initially been slotted for a Summer 2017 release, it was then pushed to later in the year. 

Then came the hiring call

Just after the Switch’s release in March of this year, Game Freak re-started the rumor mill by posting job ads on Indeed Japan stating that they were looking to temporarily hire people capable of creating character models on machines like the Wii U and PlayStation Vita for a new entry in an RPG series which is “popular on a global scale.”

Now, there was no direct mention of Pokémon in this listing but it does seem like the most likely scenario considering Game Freak doesn’t have many RPG franchises under its belt that would fall into this globally popular category.

The line of merchandise

A recently announced line of merchandise titled 'Look Upon the Stars' is yet another sign that the Sun and Moon follow up could be coming. 

The official image for the line which you can see above is heavily geared towards everything stars and everything in the line is patterned with constellations. It's fairly heavy-handed in terms of hinting and the fact that the line goes on sale in Japanese Pokemon centers at the end of May, just ahead of E3, has fan hopes high for an official announcement. 

What we'd like to see

That's everything we know. Now let's get into the things we'd love to see from the rumored game.

Better graphics and animations

Game Freak pushed the Nintendo 3DS to its absolute limits with Pokémon Sun and Moon (to the point where 3D support had to be removed). That means Game Freak is ready to move beyond the limitations of the 3DS and we’d fully expect to see graphical advancements in the Nintendo Switch version. 

The graphics and animations in Sun and Moon were already excellent, definitely the best we’ve seen so far from a Pokémon game, but moving to Nintendo Switch could very well allow for sharper character and environment models and much more expressive character faces.

A well-translated UI

For a long time now, the Pokémon games have been developed for Nintendo’s DS handhelds which has given developers two screens over which to spread the game’s UI. This has resulted in arguably one of the most well-designed UIs in video games with Game Freak making the most of the space to put interactive menus on the bottom touchscreen of the DS consoles. 

The Nintendo Switch, however, only uses one screen which would mean Game Freak would have to drastically rethink its UI approach and there’s a risk it wouldn’t work quite as seamlessly. Of course, the company had to develop single screen UIs for Pokémon before the release of the DS but we’re not sure we’d like to return to this more crammed in design. 

The fact that the Switch has a touchscreen could possibly help to balance matters, though, as it would allow for more immediate interaction rather than a return to using the directional pad to scroll through options. There's also room for interesting innovations using the console's modular controllers. 

Make good use of the Festival Plaza

The Festival Plaza was an odd addition to Sun and Moon. It felt strangely separate from the main game and wasn’t a particularly good use of online features. This could completely change with the Switch. The plaza could become the perfect place for players to meet up and the LAN party capabilities of the Switch could see Festival Plaza become the place where an eSports community takes off. 

New Pokémon 

While most people say they’re not sure they can handle any more Pokémon and that they stopped paying attention after the original 150, we just want to see more. The new setting in Pokémon Sun and Moon brought in interesting and fun Alolan variations on Pokémon we already know and love so if we can’t get any more completely new creatures, we’d love to see a few more instances of this. 

Make sure you come to us for the latest news and updates on Pokémon Stars as we'll be updating this page as and when it happens. 

Motion controls

The Nintendo Switch benefits from its motion-control capable Joy-Cons. We've seen them used in some interesting ways thus far which gives us some hope that they'll be implemented in Pokemon Stars. The hat-throwing mechanic used in Super Mario Odyssey, for example, could be translated to a PokeBall throwing mechanic and that'd be an interesting new dimension to the series that only the Switch could offer.

HomePod release date could be as early as February

Fri, 19/01/2018 - 15:01

It's all been a little quiet on the HomePod front since Apple abruptly announced that its new smart speaker wouldn't be arriving in December 2017 as it had previously announced. 

But now new information from one of Apple's HomePod suppliers, Inventec, suggests that shipments of the speaker could start as early as February

The news is supported by previous Apple statements that the speaker would see a release in 'early 2018'

Inventec, which is one of the two suppliers alongside Foxconn Technology Group, also revealed that it estimates initial sales of the speaker will reach 10 million units. 

A pricey voice assistant

Apple is a little later to the smart speaker game than its main two rivals, Amazon and Google, and the HomePod also commands a pretty large price premium over their competing speakers. 

The HomePod is set to cost $349 when it releases in the US, compared to $130 for a Google Home and the $99 Amazon Echo. Pricing for other territories has yet been announced, but we can expect the premium to be similarly large. 

But the company is hoping that the promise of better sound quality, not to mention integration with the rest of the Apple ecosystem, will be enough to win over consumers, even as both Amazon and Google make audio upgrades of their own with the Amazon Echo Plus and Google Home Max respectively. 

However, it's not yet clear whether Siri will be up to the job of competing with Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant, which have both seen massive improvements since their initial smart speaker releases.