Wednesday, November 18, 2015

IT News Head Lines (Techradar) 19/11/2015


Opinion: TV Insider - Going OTT with HDR and beyond...
Opinion: TV Insider - Going OTT with HDR and beyond...

Going OTT with HDR and beyond...

While 2015 has seen 4K Ultra HD TV's launch into mainstream consumer-land, the people making the content have been focusing more on the future roll-out of HDR or 'high dynamic range'.
So what do we mean by HDR? The DR bit, or dynamic range, of a TV describes the contrast ratio the device is capable of displaying – how bright are the whites and (also importantly) how black are the blacks.
If HDR is done well, we get a dramatically better picture than today's TV – not just much brighter but also with much clearer detail.
For the purposes of the TV business we use an average, everyday TV for reference and call that SDR or 'standard dynamic range'. This would be a TV that can display something in the region of around 200-300 nits.
'Nits' is shorthand for brightness measured in 'candelas per square metre' and also scans better than 'cd/m2'.
That reference screen will have a contrast ratio of...well that depends also on who you ask and how they measured it...but a good estimate would be something like 1,000:1.
Future HDR services will give you a very much brighter screen and a vastly wider contrast ratio. Exactly what these figures will be is still a hot topic but early consumer tests suggest that – all being well - the general public are in for a treat. We're looking an increase in picture quality which is far more impressive than either the move from standard definition to high-def or high-def to 4K..

Eye of the beholder

The human visual system (HVS) itself is very complex, and still not fully understood, but evolution has driven the HVS to get a lot of important visual cues from contrast. Feed the HVS a better contrast ratio and it significantly increases the feel of 'being there'.
Now, HDR is likely to arrive at the same time as a much wider colour gamut (WCG) and a move to 10-bit (1,024 rather than the current 256 sampling steps) delivery to the home. These three enhancements (HDR, WCG and 10-bit) are collectively known as 'HDR+'.
Taking these three new factors together, we have a whole new level of TV quality coming.
Manufacturers will make the most incredible claims when it comes to their HDR capabilities. As always, caveat emptor. However, to give some idea of what we, the people behind the content think HDR should be, let's take one of the many competing ideas for HDR TV - Dolby Vision. It's a proprietary scheme that Dolby is currently pushing. Indeed the new Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, has just been announced as the latest Dolby Vision compatible movie.
Dolby's lab made a super liquid cooled display that was capable of displaying tens of thousands of nits. On testing, their research claims to show that viewers are most happy with a display capable of something like 20,000 nits.
For reference, a 100 watt incandescent lightbulb pumps out around 18,000 nits. Clearly a full image at such brightness would be severely uncomfortable but maybe a pinpoint reflection from the curves on a shiny new, bulletproof Aston Martin, for example, would be something to behold.

Too much power

These kinds of brightness levels are not practical however; the EU eco-police for example wouldn't be too happy about the power requirements of such devices. So let's move out of the lab and back to everyday life.
Based on a combination of my own experience, that of my acquaintances within the industry, and building into the equation power consumption and realistic manufacturing potential, a non-scientific estimate concludes that to call itself bright enough for HDR, a display needs to be around 1,500-2,500 nits.
Such a display will look great and not cause power station outages every time a popular live event is about to start. That also looks like a good range of numbers to combine with wider colour gamut.
Some manufacturers are quoting around 1,000 nits at the top-end thus far. So, still a work in progress then.
Samsung JS9500

Contrasting views

Then we must think about the contrast ratio. It's all well and good having lots of nits but just making an image brighter is not good enough, we also need deep, dark, 'true' blacks. If you just make the picture brighter you blow out much of the detail, thus losing the extra sharpness HDR is able to offer.
There are some manufacturers though claiming an incredible figure of a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio. It's difficult to pin down exactly what measurement techniques have been used to arrive at that figure so rather than try to drill down into them one by one, maybe it's better to understand why 1,000,000:1 is such a magic number.
Keeping the numbers general, 10,000:1 is around the amount of contrast that can be perceived comfortably at any one time by the human visual system.
In film terms this is equivalent to 13.3 f-stops. Colour negative film captures around 14 f-stops and film prints are projected at a contrast ratio of around 6.5 f-stops or 1,000:1. The extra latitude in the negative therefore allows for more contrast detail for the creatives to work with prior to striking prints.
Meanwhile away from screens and in day to day life, the eye adjusts constantly to differing lighting conditions and is actually capable a total contrast ratio of some 1,000,000:1 (20 f-stops).
That's why 1,000,000:1 is the magic number and the film industry has known this stuff for decades.
Panasonic and LG OLEDs
Why am I referring to f-stops and film all the time? The TV industry is still playing catch up with film when it comes to HDR. Not having decided on a set of standards yet, the only and best reference I can pick on is the decades of work done in the film industry in deciding what HDR means.
Also by using f-stops as a reference It can be seen that the contrast ratio numbers are based on a logarithmic scale which is the same way that both film and our vision responds to light.
It should also be noted that manufacturers' claims of 1,000,000:1 contrast ratios may be based on some kind of arbitrary or even linear scale. Until they come clean and tell us their measurement methods, we should remain skeptical.
Unless they, by some miracle of engineering, have developed a paradigm shift in technology and nobody else in the business knows about it...
In reality the eye is happy with around 10,000:1 once it has adjusted to a given lighting situation. To simulate the way the eye adjusts in real life we need enough dynamic contrast in our TV display to be able to cope with the night lowlight and the bright daylight shots without adjusting the set.
We also want for a TV that can deliver more contrast than colour negative film. Another straw poll estimate suggests that a ratio close to 100,000:1 (16.6 f-stops) would give enough latitude to do so.
So all in all, let's say that a good HDR TV would have a wider colour gamut than today and be capable of delivering around 1,500-2,500 nits with a contrast ratio (independently measured) of something close to 100,000:1.
Right now, our favourite TVs aren't capable of such levels of brightness. Samsung's SUHD JS9500 can hit peak luminance of around 1,000 nits, while the top two OLEDs, from LG and Panasonic respectively, are batting around 450 nits.
Panasonic TX-65CZ952

HDR is what we want, not 4K

The number of 4K Ultra HD pixels in a normal viewing environment is not necessary (as I've spoken about before). It's the quality of the pixel, not the quantity of them that's what matters.
For years we have found our best content on film. The reason for this is the ability of film to collect as much colour and contrast as is needed to produce seriously beautiful imagery. Digital sensors of the past just couldn't match it.
Times have changed and so have our methods for displaying the content. However, the same wish applies: we want quality imagery and therefore quality pixels.
To achieve this we need to aim towards mimicking the colour and contrast capabilities of the human visual system. Better pixels give us deeper, more natural images. More contrast gives us great perception of sharpness and resolution and is more attention grabbing when used creatively.
And the advantages of more natural colour need no explanation.
For the moment, sticking to HDR alone, it is mostly accepted amongst professional opinions that HDR is a far more exciting technology than the 4K numerical boosting of pixel quantity.
In consumer testing, most people prefer HD HDR images rather than 4K SDR. It's just more visually pleasing to the eye. Now you can of course combine HDR and 4K – however it's still the HDR part which appears to be the most arresting enhancement.
HDR is also better for the reality of delivery.
Although the some are claiming 4K can be delivered at around 15Mbps across the network, most who care about quality imagery will suggest much higher bandwidth requirements. Maybe 25Mbps+ are needed for 4K, especially for content like sports.
That's going to be expensive and (for some service providers) extremely difficult to implement.

More nits needs more bits

Then comes the opportunity we touched on earlier, something the streaming guys are really relishing - the move to 10-bit.
Even though our current TV content will also benefit from brighter, deeper pixels, the extra contrast ratio will highlight the fact that content is currently broadcast in 8-bit. Having only 256 luminance samples per pixel to work with leads to banding artefacts and so by moving to 10-bit (1,024 samples per pixel), we eliminate banding artefacts as much as practically possible.
Again, the digital film industry worked this out about 25 years ago.
8-bit vs. 10-bit
The problem is that the broadcast industry is not ready to deliver 10-bit yet. The industry as a whole largely complies with a set of standards put in place by the Advanced Television Standards Committee (ATSC).The body is meeting this month to talk about how to deliver ATSC 3.0, which is needed for 10-bit broadcast.
This suggests therefore that there is some work to be done, infrastructure to be developed and so on. A time consuming process.
It doesn't stop broadcasts of current content being enjoyed by people with HDR screens, but it's not taking full advantage of the opportunity HDR presents.

Way to go OTT

The streaming ('over the top' or OTT) guys, like Netflix and Amazon, have no such issue. They can deliver whatever they want as long as it can fit down the pipes.
Delivering a 10-bit HD HDR stream over IP needs arguably very little, if indeed any, extra bandwidth compared to HD SDR at 8-bit.
This is because 8-bit is actually quite hard to encode and it contains many errors, whereas 10-bit has fewer artefacts for the encoder to deal with. So, in the end, 8-bit and 10-bit are about the same payload.
That's much more practical than trying to squeeze 4K Ultra HD SDR into the same pipe.
Amazon HDR
Add to that the fact most content is already made in 10-bit (and has been for some time) then the streamers can also start to claim the high-ground when it comes to quality delivery of almost all content, including remastered film. They could even stream live content without much extra effort.

No need for UHD

In conclusion, I believe we really may not need that much 4K to be sent to the 4K TV's in the home.
We can capture the content with as high a resolution camera as is possible thus allowing for creating better quality subsampled images but for the normal viewing condition that Ultra HD resolution is just not needed.
However, beautifully crisp and sharp contrast detail in the form of HDR should give us a real reason to buy a new TV set. Then looking forward, by adding WCG and 10-bit, creating HDR+, we have a very colorful, crisp and bright future ahead of us.
Hopefully the content streamers will start to move faster on this and wake the TV manufacturers up to the opportunity also.
Further reading: Ericsson white paper - Understanding Ultra High Definition Television
Bill Scanlon is an experienced film and broadcast professional with a background stretching back over 25 years in the industry. He is strong advocate for 'Quality Pixels' throughout film and broadcast. An industry advisor and regular panelist discussing his background in 3D, CGI/ Visual Effects and most importantly now, new technologies like Ultra HD and how that is enabling the merge of the film and broadcast disciplines.
He was also the executive producer on the first live Ultra HD international broadcast of a major sporting event.

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Telstra pros plan iPad Pro plans
Telstra pros plan iPad Pro plans
It may not be the laptop replacement some users dream of, but the iPad Pro is still an impressive device. It's also an expensive one, with outright prices in Australia ranging from $1249 to $1699.
The good news then is that Telstra has just announced a range of plans for the big screen iPad, which make acquiring one significantly more achievable for a large number of people.
Naturally, it will end up costing you significantly more money in the long run, but you will get a heap of data bundled alongside it, so it's not ridiculous.

Pro planning for pros

Plans start at $85 a month over 24 months, which will wrap your hands around a 128GB iPad Pro with 1GB of data every month.
The same tablet will cost $92 a month with 4GB a month, $109 a month with 8GB or $155 a month for 15GB a month.
Telstra will also offer both the Apple Pencil and the Smart Keyboard accessories for $165 and $269 respectively.

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How the YouTube Kids app will keep video family friendly
How the YouTube Kids app will keep video family friendly
The good thing about YouTube is the almost inconceivably vast volume and range of video, all easily accessible in one place. The bad thing about YouTube is… well, all the same things, especially if you're an adult trying to moderate the media intake of a small child.
Which is why YouTube is launching its YouTube Kids app in the UK today, offering filtered content for three-to-eight-year-olds.
In an ideal world, of course, no child would be left to watch videos unsupervised because they would all have a constantly engaged parent on hand to direct their tiny eyes through the thickets of inappropriate content.
In practice, dinner needs cooking, other children need seeing to, and sometimes parents just need a few minutes off. So many minutes off, in fact, that animated nursery rhyme channel Little Baby Bums has become one of the biggest in the world, with more watch time than Gangnam Style.
YouTube Kids (which has been available in the US since February) isn't a substitute for parental involvement. YouTube stresses that the content is controlled by algorithm rather than being curated, and there could be lapses that parents will need to flag (using the in-app flagging system).
But it will allow for parental involvement to be substantially more relaxed.
The app, which is available for Android and iOS devices (there is no desktop version), features kid-friendly YouTubers such as Stampy Longhead and SevenSuperGirls are in.
Cartoon favourites such as Morph, Chuggington and Octonauts are also in, and so are documentaries from National Geographic and how-tos from Mister Maker. Content is divided into four sections: shows, music, learning, and explore, which is a something of a catch-all category.

No naughty stuff

But children won't be able to blunder into more adult material: it simply won't be presented to them. Not only is most content filtered out, but it isn't even possible to search for it. Within the walls of YouTube kids, trying to search for "sex" will draw a big blank, while a rowdy YouTuber like KSI simply doesn't exist in the app.
Anything R-rated is gently rendered invisible by it. (Search options can be customised in the settings, which parents can access using a custom password.)
Besides filtering, YouTube Kids has several features that parents will be grateful for. It's a logged-out experience, which means no ties to an identifying account. Uploading, sharing and liking have all been disabled, so your child's identity is kept secure. Parents can also turn off the (actually quite pleasant) background music and sound effects.
Perhaps best of all, you can set a timer to control how long your child spends watching. No more bargaining for one more episode or dealing with tantrums about the off switch: when the counter gets to zero, children are presented with a gently yawning face to let them know screen time is over.

'No purchase flows out of the app'

YouTube kids is compatible with Chromecast, Apple TV, games consoles and smart TVs, so you can watch together on the big screen as well as on phone or tablet. Like the rest of YouTube, it's free to use and ad-supported.
YouTube promises that these will be child-friendly, and at launch at least there will be nothing advertising food or drink. They're also saying there will be "no purchase flows out of the app" – so your money can stay as safe as your children while they use the app.
YouTube Kids is one of a number of experiments in specialised platforms from YouTube, which launched YouTube Gaming in August and will bring YouTube music to the UK next year. However, there are no plans to produce children's apps aimed at different age ranges – something of a missed opportunity given than parental anxieties definitely don't end at eight.
For parents of young children, however, YouTube kids should be a great way to take the worry out of letting them enjoy YouTube.

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New infrastructure will help your Audi to drop you off and park itself
New infrastructure will help your Audi to drop you off and park itself
While other car manufacturers talk about one day, maybe, possibly releasing a self-parking car, Audi is already working to make it a reality. And soon.
According to an Audi representative, its self-parking technology is ready for production, but it takes time for governments to get caught up. We'll probably be waiting another "two or three years," but the process is already underway.
As the biggest obstacle for such a project is the government support and infrastructure needed to get it off the ground, Audi is working in cooperation with Somerville, Massachusetts to support self-parking cars in the Boston area.

Efficiency above all else

The Somerville neighbourhood of Assembly Row is currently being outfitted with the required infrastructure, including a specially designed carpark for cars of both the self-parking and traditional variety.
Human drivers are an unruly bunch, and we take up far more room than is strictly necessary, but Audi predicts that structures built for its self-parking cars could require up to 60 per cent less space than the kind used today – we still need to be able to open our doors and move between cars after we park, while self-parking cars have no such problem.
But Audi's ambitions go beyond helping cars park ridiculously close to one another. The German firm is looking to help Somerville with the flow of its traffic, too. Thanks to a decision to bring the area's traffic-light information online, Audi estimates it'll be able to improve traffic flow anywhere from 20-50 per cent.
Those Audi types are nothing if not efficient.
Source: Mashable

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Updated: The 10 best mobile phones in the world today
Updated: The 10 best mobile phones in the world today

Number 10: Nexus 6

Update: We've finally wrapped our fingers around the stunning new Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P handsets. But how do they compare to the new iPhone, and where does Sony's latest, the Xperia Z5 fit in? This update will explain all...
Here at techradar, we check out every phone under the sun, putting the ones that matter through our vigorous testing process to create our in-depth mobile phone reviews.
However, with so many to choose from, we've spent hours whittling them down to a top ten, taking into account the power, specs, design and value for money. And we'll always point you in the direction of the latest handsets - after all, nobody wants to be carting around a phone that doesn't get any updates in a year's time, right?
So whether it's one of the many slick Android handsets, the latest iPhone or one from a range of other cool operating systems, we've extensively tested them all so you don't have to!
Here are our rankings for the best smartphones around, currently available in Australia.

Number 10: HTC One M9

HTC One M9

10. HTC One M9

Not quite up the 5 star standard, but HTC still has the most beautiful phone around
OS: Android 5 | Screen size: 5-inch | Resolution: 1920x1080 | Memory: 3GB |Storage: 32GB |Battery:2840mAh | Rear camera: 20.7MP | Front camera: 4MP
HTC has sat comfortably at the top of our charts for the last couple of years, and while it's not quite managed it in 2015, the M9 is still a phone with the best build quality out there.
None of the old favourites are missing, so BoomSound enhancement still turbocharges the audio and the Sense overlay remains one of our favourites, thanks to its sophistication and power.
The camera has been boosted to 20.7MP, although doesn't have the impressive snapping power of some of the other phones on the market. The design language still means this is one of our favourite phones to stick in our pocket.
It's a touch more expensive than before, and doesn't take a huge leap forward from last year's model, but that was nearly perfect, so where was HTC to go?

Number 9: Google Nexus 5X

Google Nexus 5X

9. Nexus 5X

LG's Nexus phone builds on the Nexus heritage
OS: Android 6 | Screen size: 5.2-inch | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | Memory: 2GB | Storage: 16GB/32GB | Battery: 2,700mAh | Rear camera: 12.3MP | Front camera: 5MP
Fans of Google's Nexus devices (which, frankly, should be all Android users) will be happy to know that Google has decided to bring back a Nexus handset with a smaller screen size.
While the Nexus 6P is a behemoth of specifications, Nexus partner LG has managed to cram the best bits of the bigger phone into a smaller body, without sacrificing all the things that make the 6P great.
It's only got 2GB of memory on board, which is disappointing given the 3GB standard for other Android flagships, but otherwise this phone is a prime example of what Android's mobile operating system can be.

Number 8: Sony Xperia Z5

Sony Xperia Z5

8. Sony Xperia Z5

Waterproof, sleek and packed with big features
OS: Android 5.1 | Screen size: 5.2-inch | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | RAM: 3GB |Storage: 32GB | Battery: 2,900mAh | Rear camera: 23MP | Front camera:5.1MP
Sony doesn't half like bringing out new phones, doesn't it? The paint's barely dried before a new one is shooting onto shop shelves - but we don't mind when they offer fancy new features.
The Xperia Z5 is a big update compared to the Xperia Z3+ from earlier in the year though. It features a fingerprint sensor and has a much nicer design with a frosted glass back.
It still features the latest Snapdragon 810 processor with 3GB of RAM, but there are no overheating issues like before. There are less open than on previous Sony phones – but it still manages to keep its water resistant design. You can drop this in the toilet without fear, basically.
The large 5.2-inch screen looks great thanks to Bravia technology, and the camera has undergone some big changes with a 23MP sensor and new autofocus technology.
Full review: Sony Xperia Z5
See the best Sony Xperia Z5 deals

Number 7: Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge

7. Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge

Curving into the future with impressive specs
OS: Android 5 | Screen size: 5.1-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 2560 | Memory: 3GB |Storage:32GB/64GB/128GB | Battery: 2560mAh | Rear camera: 16MP | Front camera: 5MP
The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge has all the power and features of the table-topping S6, but includes a little extra, thanks to the curved edges on its sides.
They don't add a huge amount of functionality, but if you're going on looks alone, the S6 Edge has them in spades.
The price is a lot higher, though, which is why it doesn't join its (non-identical) twin at the top of the chart. But if you're after a phone that's wildly different from anything else with a great feature set and a tip-top camera, this should be your choice.

Number 6: Samsung Galaxy Note 5

6. Samsung Galaxy Note 5

Samsung Galaxy Note 5
Stunning screen, outstanding camera, and a bonus S Pen are all delivered in style
OS: Android 5.1.1 | Screen size: 5.7-inch | Resolution: 2560 x 1440 | Memory: 4GB | Storage: 32GB/64GB | Battery: 3,020mAh | Rear camera: 16MP | Front camera: 5MP
Samsung's latest plus-sized handset continues the positive momentum that the company started with the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge.
While the Note handsets have always been pricey, the Note 5's beautiful glass and metal chassis is the first to feel like it's worth the extra outlay – it has a far more premium feel than the plastic offered by the Galaxy Note 4.
The 5.7-inch screen is gorgeous, while the Note 5's record-breaking processor and 4GB of RAM completely outpace Apple, as does its 16MP camera – we'll be curious to see what September brings.
The lack of expandable memory (or a 128GB option) and a changeable battery may put long-time Note fans off, but this is the best smartphone with a stylus. Actually, it's one of the best full stop.
Full review: Samsung Galaxy Note 5
See the best Samsung Galaxy Note 5 deals

Number 5: iPhone 6S Plus

iPhone 6S Plus

5. Apple iPhone 6S Plus

Apple's second big screen phone is another stunner
OS: iOS 9 | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | RAM: 2GB |Storage: 16GB/64GB/128GB | Battery: around 2750mAh | Rear camera: 12MP |Front camera: 5MP
On one hand, this is just a larger iPhone 6S. That's no bad thing, as that phone is one of the best around at the moment. But this second Apple phablet has a number of elements that make it a great phone in its own right.
The screen is Full HD and really packs some stunning colour reproduction. The camera on the back features optical image stabilisation, which means better low light video and photography.
The iPhone 6S Plus once again has something that's eluded iPhone fans for years: a really good battery, with Apple using that extra space to cram in a few more mAh units.
It's one of the most expensive phones around, and is bettered on spec by a few other phablets - but if you're an Apple fan looking for a 'bigger' experience, this is the phone for you.
Full review: iPhone 6S Plus
See the best iPhone 6S Plus deals

Number 4: LG G4


4. LG G4

Luxury leather on a smartphone that tries to please everyone
OS: Android 5.1 | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 2560 x 1440 | Memory: 3GB | Storage: 32GB | Battery: removable 3,000mAh | Rear camera: 16MP | Front camera: 8MP
LG has tried to focus on what everyone actually wants out of a smartphone, a great looking design, colour rich display and the great camera for photos - but it doesn't quite deliver as impressively as we'd hoped.
Don't let that put you off though. There's a lot going on with the LG G4, and for the most part it's rather positive indeed. The leather back is much nicer than the plastic option, and it will make your phone stand out among the swath of glass and metal offerings.
Its large, expansive screen is one of the best on the market, the 16MP laser auto-focus camera takes some cracking shots and the rear buttons are easier to hit on a handset this size.
As a complete package, it offers more than the Xperia Z3 and One M9, but it doesn't quite match the slickness and design of the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S6.
Full review: LG G4
See the best LG G4 deals

Number 3: Nexus 6P

Nexus 6P

3. Nexus 6P

Google partners with Huawei for a special device
OS: Android 6 | Screen size: 5.7-inch | Resolution: 2560 x 1440 | Memory: 3GB | Storage: 32GB/64GB/128GB | Battery: 3,450mAh | Rear camera: 12.3MP | Front camera: 8MP
Google's Nexus platform has always been about partnering with different manufacturers to deliver the best possible handset for the time, and for the Nexus 6P, Huawei has stepped up to the plate.
With Android Marshmallow singing on the device's 5.7-inch screen, and the included rear-fingerprint scanner set to help Android deliver unified mobile payments a reality, this truly is the best Nexus handset ever made.
Incredible battery life and quick charging make up for the handset's lack of optical image stabilisation, but the fact remains that both front and rear cameras excel even without it.

Number 2: iPhone 6S

iPhone 6S

2. iPhone 6S

Bigger, better, sleeker and faster than the iPhone 6
OS: iOS 9 | Screen size: 4.7-inch | Resolution: 1334 x 750 | RAM: 2GB |Storage:16GB/64GB/128GB | Battery: 1,715mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 5MP
What can you say about any new iPhone? Most people are already decided about whether they're going to buy the new model before it's even announced - but that hasn't stopped us giving it a thoroughly good going over.
The good points are the same as usual: a hugely powerful phone, a great camera and the new 3D Touch interface is genuinely useful, and will only continue to get better as time goes on.
The chassis is identical to the previous iPhone 6, which will irk some and might force them to wait for the iPhone 7, but it's still well-designed. The battery life is actually a little shorter (to fit in the motor for the 3D Touch method) and is the the biggest issue with the phone.
That said, it's still a brilliant iPhone, the phone that loads of users are desperate to get their hands on, and Apple's not done any harm at all with this upgraded model.
Full review: iPhone 6S
See the best iPhone 6S deals

Number 1: Samsung Galaxy S6

Galaxy S6

1. Samsung Galaxy S6

A brilliant phone that shows Samsung still has what it takes
OS: Android 5 | Screen size: 5.1-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 2560 | Memory: 3GB |Storage:32GB/64GB/128GB | Battery: 2550mAh | Rear camera: 16MP | Front camera: 5MP
While last year's Galaxy S5 was nothing special, this year Samsung's started from the ground up to make a truly wonderful smartphone.
The camera is superb, the audio and video quality brilliant and the QHD display crammed into the 5.1-inch screen is the sharpest on the market - although it does suck down the battery rather a lot.
The design finally feels good in our hand (contrasting with the plastic cheapness of last year), and the refined TouchWiz overlay is much nicer to use.
It's pretty expensive, mind, so make sure you're after a truly A-grade experience before buying. But if you do take the plunge, rest assured, you have the best phone on the market.

You might also like...

If a phone isn't in the top 10 best phones in the world list, that doesn't mean it's not worth giving two hoots about.
Here's a few handsets you might want to consider should none of the above tickle your fancy... although you're clearly VERY hard to please:
HTC One M8

HTC One M8

A stunning phone with very few flaws
OS: Android | Screen size: 5-inch | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16GB/32GB |Battery: 2,600mAh | Rear camera: 4MP dual | Front camera: 5MP
The HTC One M8 has tumbled dramatically out of the top 10 after holding onto top spot for the best part of a year, so why the fall? Well, it's now pretty old compared to the handsets making up the top ten, and there's a new kid on the block in the shape of the One M9.
It's still the same perfectly design handset though, with impressive BoomSound speakers and the short-lived, yet innovative Duo Camera on the rear. The One M9 is almost identical, and just a bit better all round.
There's been a small price drop, too, since the arrival of the One M9, and you certainly won't be getting a poor phone if you choose to pick it up. But remember, for just a little more you can have its up-to-date successor. Your call.
Samsung Galaxy s5

Samsung Galaxy S5

A year old, but still very capable
OS: Android | Screen size: 5.1-inch | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16GB/32GB |Battery: 2,800mAh | Rear camera: 16MP | Front camera: 2MP
If Samsung's latest duo of flagship devices (the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge) are too rich for your wallet then you can always consider last year's Galaxy S5.
Sure it doesn't have the same premium design as the current generation, but the plastic body means it's dust and water resistant as well as giving you a removable battery and microSD slot - all things not available on the S6 range.
The drop in price also makes the Galaxy S5 more attractive, and it's stuffed full of features, including a fantastic screen that will ensure you have an enjoyable mobile experience.
Nokia Lumia 930

Nokia Lumia 930

Hey Nokia, (now Microsoft), nice flagship phone!
OS: Windows Phone | Screen size: 5-inch | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 32GB |Battery: 2,420mAh | Rear camera: 20MP | Front camera: 1.2MP
The Lumia 930 comes up short when compared with the competition, but only in a couple of areas. Windows Phone is still a sub-par operating system for most people, thanks to the poorer apps and lower level of control. But then again, for a lot of people the improved Office functionality and simple interface is a boon.
It's strong in both design and power, although a little last-gen on the latter element. Coupled with a very capable camera, this phone is easy to recommend to those looking for something different.
Windows Phone aside, there's a great deal on show here to make this a top-rated smartphone. The build quality is excellent and iconic, and the camera is powerful. We like that 32GB is on offer as the base model, and built-in wireless charging is always a nice addition.
OnePlus One

OnePlus One

A flagship phone for half the cost
OS: Android | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 16GB/64GB |Battery: 3,100mAh | Rear camera: 13MP | Front camera: 5MP
If you fancy trying something a bit different then Chinese firm OnePlus has a rather enticing proposition. Its first flagship smartphone (and only device to date), the OnePlus One, has the same feature set as 2014's flagships, but at a fraction of the cost.
You can pick up the One SIM-free from under $450, which is a steal when you consider it packs a 5.5-inch full HD display, Snapdragon 800 processor, 2GB of RAM and a 13MP rear facing camera.
It runs the community backed CyanogenMod version of Android which comes with lots of handy little extras. The design is hardly inspiring and the lack of a microSD slot may put some off, but for the price you can't really go wrong.
Apple iPhone 5S

iPhone 5S

Perfect for fans of the smaller screen size
OS: iOS | Screen size: 4-inch | Resolution: 1136 x 640 | RAM: 1GB | Storage: 16GB/32GB/64GB |Battery: 1,560mAh | Rear camera: 8MP | Front camera: 1.2MP
Remember this? After the furore with the iPhone 6, it's easy to forget that the Apple iPhone 5S is still alive and kicking.
It's still a bit expensive, but the iOS 8 software update hasn't presented any problems, so this slightly cheaper option should appeal to those who like a smaller screen.
Plus, you can use it with the Apple Watch and pay for things on the go using the cunningly named Apple Pay - although for some reason Touch ID won't be work online, where it will be for the iPad Air 2 and friends.
BlackBerry Classic

BlackBerry Classic

Physical keyboards FTW, right?
OS: BlackBerry 10 | Screen size: 3.5-inch | Resolution: 720 x 720 | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16GB |Battery: 2,515mAh | Rear camera: 8MP | Front camera: 2MP
Come again? BlackBerry is still going? Well yes it is, and in the past year it's launched both the Passport and the Classic.
They certainly won't be to many people's taste, but those unable to drag themselves away from a physical keyboard on their phone have the Classic to fall back on.
It takes the best bits of design from the firm's much loved Bold series and brings them into the 21st Century with the BB10 operating system and improved specs. Great for those always emailing and messaging on the go, just don't try and play games or watch movies on its 4:3 display.

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This is how astronauts are attempting to grow flowers in space
This is how astronauts are attempting to grow flowers in space
NASA astronauts are attempting to grow flowering plants for the first time on the International Space Station.
Astronaut and Space Station crew member Kjell Lindgren set up the plant growth experiment on Monday, and if all goes well, it could lead to the first flowers ever grown on the ISS - and space, according to NASA.
The experimental flowers, zinnias, are being grown in the Veggie plant grown system that was taken up to the ISS in April 2014.
Lindgren is charged with turning on red, blue and green LED lights on the Veggie system, as well as activating the water and nutrient systems, and monitoring plant growth.
The zinnias are expected to bloom early 2016, after 60 days of growth.

The Veggie lab

The Veggie system has previously been used to grow lettuce and other leafy plants, but not flowering plants until now, and the results from the zinnias experiment should help determine if other flowering plants can be grown in space.
"Growing a flowering crop is more challenging than growing a vegetative crop such as lettuce," said Gioia Massa, NASA scientist for Veggie.
"Lighting and other environmental parameters are more critical."
NASA will also be collecting data on how pollen behaves in the ISS environment, as well as learning how flowers might affect the morale of crew members.
"Growing the zinnia plants will help advance our knowledge of how plants flower in the Veggie growth system, and will enable fruiting plants like tomatoes to be grown and eaten in space using Veggie as the in-orbit garden," said Trent Smith, Veggie program manager at Kennedy.
NASA plans to start growing tomatoes in the Veggie system on the ISS in 2017, and could end up becoming a vital element for future deep-space missions.
Image credit: NASA/Gioia Massa

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EA will "wait and see" on VR
EA will
The video game industry has long promised us that virtual reality will change lives, cause a revolution in gaming, and other such hyperbole. But Electronic Arts won't be so quick to bring the likes of Star Wars: Battlefront to the VR faithful.
At the UBS Global Technology Conference, EA CFO Blake Jorgensen outlined a more cautious approach to the headsets like Sony's PlayStation VR, the Oculus Rift, and Valve VR.
The trouble for EA is that VR's early adopters are likely to be very few, making profitable game development difficult.
"There's some challenges still and I think the biggest challenge is just the size of the market," Jorgensen said.

Five years or more

"We don't make games anymore for the Wii or the Wii U because the market is not big enough, the PS Vita – the Sony product – we don't make games for that anymore because the market is too small, so it's all about the size of the market."
Jorgensen admitted that EA had a number of VR development kits, and while we should expect to see VR titles from EA eventually, he didn't see VR taking off for another five years.
"I think the reality is, the next one to three years, it's probably going to take some time to build up a sizeable marketplace and you might see alternative uses for virtual reality first before it becomes gaming," Jorgensen said.
"Longer term, five plus years away, I think there's certainly a market there and it will be another exciting way to enjoy gaming."

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Updated: Google+ is getting a makeover, hoping you'll notice/care
Updated: Google+ is getting a makeover, hoping you'll notice/care
Just when you thought you'd heard the last of Google's fledgling social networking platform, Google+, the company goes and completely overhauls its design.
The service, announced back in 2011 with hopes to stifle the rapid growth of social media networks like Facebook and Twitter with Google's own humongous user base, is receiving the same, fresh coat of Material Design paint that Mountain View's suite of services have enjoyed since Android Lollipop 5.0 launched last year.
Although Google+ hasn't made life too difficult for its social media competitors since launch, that isn't stopping the search firm from supporting the project with a little love in the form of its new, refined focus on the user community.

What's new with Google+

First off, the new Google+ scales better across devices, finely-tuned to work just as well on your smartphone or tablet as it does on your desktop browser. Google notes that, at the time of writing, you'll need to opt-in to the new Google+ in order to see the visual changes.
Google Plus
Next up, Google is front-loading a two of its most popular features, Communities and Collections, to greet you when you log onto the social networking site. Each allows users to hop into forum-style rooms and topics where they can explore media-rich posts inside the new Google+ design. These features might not seem too unique if you're a Reddit or Imgur lurker, but this approach stands out because it puts you in direct connection with others who have similar interests. Google has a full list of updates for your browsing enjoyment.
The question remains: Will this update make people care about Google+? The Material Design visual revamp is surely a step in the right direction to keeping an ever-shifting crowd, but we'll have to wait and see if users engage with it and more flock to the service. Let us know what you think about Google's move to sustain its social networking presence.

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Updated: Best iPhone apps 2015
Updated: Best iPhone apps 2015

Best iPhone apps 2015

50 best iPhone apps 2015
Apps are the cornerstone of Apple's iOS platform. The ecosystem is what sets Apple's mobile platform apart from its rivals, and the highest-quality iPhone apps are typically best in class.
But, like any app store, it is sometimes difficult to find out what are truly the best apps, the ones that stand out from the rest and offer a tool or service that's far beyond anything else available.
Sometimes the best apps are free, other times you will have to pay a little bit for them. Here we showcase the best available and offer up everything you need to know about the app and how much it will cost.
This round-up compiles our favourites, from top-quality creative tools and video editors to the finest productivity kit and social networking clients. And in addition to our ongoing list of the absolute best, every week we're adding our picks for the latest and greatest new or updated apps, so check back often. This week's selection includes a pair of new cloud-storage apps with Apple-executive pedigree, more from YouTube and Facebook, and a better way to keep track of bills. Even if you don't have an iPhone right now, it's worth reading up on what's available if you're considering investing in the iPhone 6S.

New this week: Upthere Home & Upthere Camera

  • Free
Upthere is the latest hot cloud-storage service to watch, thanks in large part to former Apple VP Bertrand Serlet's position as founder and director of the company. Last week's launch included the release of two iPhone apps: Upthere Home for easy, searchable access to your photos, videos, music and documents, and Upthere Camera for snapping photos directly to your snazzy new cloud account. Home can also automatically upload your iPhone camera roll, while Camera allows images to be kept private or shared with others, no social networks required. The service is currently free while in beta, and requires an invite.

New this week: YouTube Music

YouTube Music
  • Free
Also making its debut this week is the long-awaited YouTube Music, which is exactly what it sounds like: a YouTube app built for music lovers. By default, the app is geared toward watching an endless parade of music videos, but you can switch to just music by toggling the switch in the upper-right corner. Enjoy your favorite tracks, albums, and artists for free, or sign up for a YouTube Red subscription to enjoy ad-free videos and the ability to listen to music offline. The service touts "a nearly endless catalog" with personalized stations adapted to your specific taste in music, as well as new, trending, or current hitmakers from a single place. As if YouTube didn't already absorb enough of your time....

New this week: Swipe Dial

Swipe Dial
  • Free
The Today view in Notification Center has made all kinds of cool iPhone shortcuts possible, such as an old-fashioned speed dial, which is exactly what Swipe Dial offers. The app is essentially a widget that makes placing a call even easier: simply swipe to access the Today screen, tap on the contact you'd like to call, then tap again to initiate the call. There's a handy shortcut to the dial pad, and contacts appear with both names and photo avatars to make them easy to find. The app can be used to edit the name and type of call to make, while the widget supports multiple pages so users can have all their favorites available after a cheap in-app upgrade.

New this week: Notify by Facebook

  • Free
Facebook's newest app is Notify, a one-stop shop for breaking news alerts from your favorite sources. Whether you're into movies, sports, food, celebrities or world events, just toggle on the stations of interest and Notify will push notifications onto your lock screen whenever something notable happens. Because Notify taps into your Facebook account, the app can suggest stations based on your profile, and of course you can share any favorites with friends, because...Facebook.

New this week: Wonders

  • Free
If you love travel and the great outdoors, the latest update to Wonders is a sight to see. The previous version of this inspirational, outdoor-themed app already included an amazing variety of hand-picked visual stories for nature lovers and free spirits, plus a mobile journal filled with quality photography. The update takes aim at California, and gives users the option of purchasing premium-quality prints of featured pics. It's a feast for both the eyes and mind.

New this week: Firefox

  • Free
After years of rumors, Mozilla's Firefox web browser has finally come to iOS. The app takes advantage of the new Firefox Account sync, making your history, bookmarks, and open tabs available across all your devices. There's support for private browsing in iOS 9, visual, numbered tabs make it easy to keep track of content, and your top sites are always just a tap away. This download is a no-brainer for fans of Firefox on the desktop, but everyone should give this freebie a spin.

New this week: FileThis 2.0

  • Free
FileThis helps you handle bills by silently logging in and downloading your monthly statements. The 2.0 update introduces smart bill reminders, a bill calendar, and Apple Watch support so users can manage everything from their wrists. The app also boasts a fresh new user interface, support for the iPhone 6 display, notifications, account balances, and much more. Up to six account connections can be made absolutely free, with the Ultimate upgrade available for a modest monthly in-app purchase.

New this week: Unroll.Me

  • Free
Here's another app aimed at making life easier. Unroll.Me helps purge clutter from all your email inboxes by canceling subscriptions to services you don't want. The app can even "rollup" the messages you do want into a daily digest that skips the inbox and shows up at your preferred time of day. supports the most popular email services, including iCloud, Gmail, Yahoo, and, and sounds like just the ticket for keeping a cleaner inbox.


  • Free
WhatsApp is one of the most essential apps you can install on your iOS device, especially if you have friends and family across the world.
Rather than worrying about your SMS allowance or signal, WhatsApp lets you send messages over any Wi-Fi or mobile data connection instead. You can also send and receive photos with no size restrictions, and if you're using Wi-Fi (or you have unlimited mobile data) they won't cost you any extra to send.


  • Free
Periscope, Twitter's live video streaming app, is an essential download for anyone who likes the immediacy of Twitter but craves something more visual.
You can easily create your own live streams or watch other people's, send comments and hearts in real time and if you miss the action there's a 24 hour window with which to replay streams. In short it's simple enough to dive straight into but has enough to it that you'll keep coming back, whether you're more creator or viewer.


  • Free
Even in 2015 there are still times and places where we can't get an internet connection, but this doesn't have to mean you can't read websites, however, thanks to the excellent Pocket app. It allows you to save articles, news stories, blog posts, videos and much more, letting you read and watch them offline.
You can also synchronise your saved articles across every device you've installed Pocket on, allowing you to pick up where you left off and continue reading.

Google Photos

Google Photos
  • Free
There are probably hundreds of photo apps around, but Google Photos stands out as it gives you unlimited storage for photos and videos, all for free.
That's reason enough to jump on board, especially as it works not just on iOS but on Android and computers too.
But with basic editing tools and the ability to make collages and albums this is more than just photo and video storage, it aims to be your first and last stop after taking a picture. To achieve that it will need a few more features, but it's well on its way.


  • Free
Snapseed is Google's own photo editor that's been designed from the ground up to make tweaking your snaps as easy and fun as possible on a touchscreen device.
Although the interface is simple enough to use with just your fingers, there's also a lot of depth to this app as well. You use tools to tweak and enhance your photographs to make them look the best they ever have, as well as playing around with fun filters that can transform the photos you've taken on your smartphone or tablet.


  • Free
Should you find yourself in one of the supported cities (including Paris, London, New York and Berlin), you'll be grateful to have Citymapper on your iPhone — assuming you don't want to get lost.
The app finds where you are and then gets you from A to B, whether you want to walk, grab a taxi, or use public transport (for which live times are provided).

Google Maps

Google Maps
  • Free
It's no secret just how badly Apple's own mapping app performs, although it has got better post-iOS 6.
Fortunately, Google Maps is a free download, and a far better solution than the old Google Maps app as well, thanks to the inclusion of turn-by-turn navigation and - in some cities - public transport directions. It's an easy way to supercharge your iPhone's mapping capabilities and one of the first apps you should grab for the iPhone 7 when it launches.
Listed for app of the year at the TechRadar Phone Awards.


  • Free
Boost your productivity with Pushbullet, which lets you view your iPhone's notifications and messages directly on your computer. It means if you get a text message you can read it there and then without having to take your phone out of your pocket or bag.
You can also quickly send files from your computer to your phone with only a few clicks, and if you regularly find that you email links to yourself just to open them on your smartphone, then you'll never have to do that again thanks to Pushbullet's link sharing features.


  • Free
The idea behind Evernote is you should never forget anything again. Instead, you upload and tag everything, so the service becomes your digital memory. For free, you can upload 60 MB of data per month. Go premium ($5/£4 per month) and you can upload a gargantuan 4 GB per month, search document text, and store your notebooks offline.

Evernote Scannable

Evernote Scannable
  • Free
Although Evernote Scannable is quite basic by iPhone scanner standards, it's also efficient and reliable. On launching the app, simply point your camera at a document that contrasts the surface behind it and the app will capture it. The JPEG can be sent to Evernote or shared via another service, and multiple scans are compiled to PDF.


  • Free
Uber is transforming the way we travel. You can quickly and easily request a taxi using the app and get picked up within minutes and you can compare rates and get quotes, as well as paying with PayPal or by adding your credit card to a secure Uber account.
The Uber service is available in over 50 countries, and it's rapidly growing. Give it a try and you'll never want to hail a taxi the old fashioned way again.


  • Free
Spotify has been pretty quick to establish itself as the top music streaming service, and the Spotify Music app brings some great features to your iOS device, turning it in to a pocket jukebox that delivers your favourite tunes no matter where you are.
Even better you can now listen to Spotify music for free on iOS, although if you want to download songs for offline listening and without any ads, then a Spotify Premium account is worth investing in.


  • Free
If you're serious about running or cycling then you should be serious about Strava. As smartphone fitness tools go it's one of the best, allowing you to track your performance, set goals and see daily progress updates.
There are leaderboards and challenges to give it a competitive edge and if you're ever not sure where to run or cycle you can find user created routes on the app, or share your own. All of that comes free of charge, while a premium version adds even more tools.


  • Free
Instagram is the go-to app for quickly taking photos, adding quirky filters to them and sharing them with the world. Over 300 million people use Instagram and thanks to the social aspects and effortless interface it's easy to see why it's such a hit.
You're not limited to sharing your snaps on Instagram either, as you can easily add your photos to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and more with just a few taps.


  • Free
For the most part, social media is fleeting, but Timehop is all about digging up precious memories from the past. You link it to whatever social media services you frequent (and your on-device photos) and it shows you what was happening years ago on today's date.


  • Free
There are plenty of solutions for transferring content between your computer and iPhone, including Apple's increasingly popular iCloud. Dropbox is still worth using, though. It has great cross-platform clients, integrates with iOS 8's Share sheets, and has direct support in many iOS apps.
Check out our essential tips for every Dropbox user.

Air Video HD

Air Video HD
  • $2.99/£2.29
Even the most expensive iPhone has a fairly limited amount of on-board storage and that's not even likely to change with the iPhone 7. This is a problem if you have a large video collection you'd like to access. Air Video HD server streams (and if necessary, re-encodes) files from a PC or Mac that can then be played on your iPhone; there's AirPlay support, and also the means to access your Air Video server over the web.

CARROT Weather

CARROT Weather
  • $3.99/£2.99
If there's one thing that's sorely lacking in the majority of weather apps, it's a malevolent AI that's seeking the destruction of all humankind, and in the meantime gleefully revels in you getting soaked in a downpour.
CARROT Weather still gives you a pretty accurate indication of what's going to happen, though, given that it's powered by Dark Sky tech; but rather than getting all po-faced and technical, it'll instead laugh that you're in for weather hell, while showing a picture of cows being hurled across the screen in a gale.
Secret locations are there for discovery as well, which is handy if you're desperate to know whether you need sunscreen when visiting Tatooine. (Hint: you really, really do.)

Sky Guide

Sky Guide
  • $0.99/£0.99
Easily the most beautiful of the iOS stargazing apps, Sky Guide also happens to be the most usable. You can quickly and easily scan the heavens by dragging your finger around, optionally orienting the screen to wherever you happen to be looking. A Today view widget adds information about rise and set times for nearby planets, the sun and the moon.

Day One

Day One
  • $4.99/£2.99
Traditional journals are all very well, but there's something wonderful about an app that you always have with you, into which you can save messages, images, locations and more, and then later retrieve everything via a search. Day One is beautifully designed and easy to use - best-in-class on the iPhone.

Fantastical 2

Fantastical 2
  • $4.99/£3.99
Fantastical 2 betters iOS 8's iffy Calendar app by way of a superior interface, a non-hateful method of dealing with reminders, and truly exceptional event input. The app has a powerful parser, and so while adding an event, you can enter the likes of "TechRadar lunch at 3pm on Friday", watching a live preview build as you type.


  • Free
Figure crams Reason's rich history of classic-era electronic music apps into a shoebox. Via a mixture of dials and pads, you can create all manner of banging choons, and then export them and assault your friends' eardrums. It's a fun toy for anyone, but also has the chops to be part of a pro-musician's mobile set-up.


  • $4.99/£3.99
Camera enables you to do the odd bit of cropping with video files, but iMovie is an audacious attempt to bring a full video editor to your iPhone, infused with the ease-of-use its desktop counterpart is renowned for. Amazingly, it succeeds. Effects, themes, credits and soundtrack creation then provide extra polish for your mobile filmmaking.

Launch Center Pro

Launch Center Pro
  • $4.99/£3.99
More or less a speed-dial for regularly performed tasks, Launch Center Pro can be a huge time-saver. You can create shortcuts for things like adding a new Tumblr post or sending your last photo to Twitter, and these shortcuts can be arranged in groups. An essential purchase if you heavily use even a handful of the supported apps.

Transmit for iOS

  • $7.99/£5.99
The app that defines iOS 8, Transmit for iOS is also a missing link for anyone who wanted a file manager for their iPhone. It might have roots in an OS X FTP client, but Transmit for iOS also integrates with cloud storage and local networked Macs. It's perfect for moving documents, renaming files, and creating archives to email or upload.


  • $4.99/£3.99
There are RSS readers that are more efficient, but Unread is the most pleasant to use. The interface begs you to sit back and take in articles from feeds you're subscribed to, and plentiful share options enable you to send content onwards. Note that although this is a free download, it's essentially for a demo; the full-price unlock gets you the regular app.

Pocket Casts

Pocket Casts
  • $3.99/£2.99
Apple's Podcasts app has improved since its initial launch, but still falls short of Pocket Casts. The third-party app cleverly mixes elegance and character, with a friendly, easily browsable interface. Subscriptions can be filtered, and you can stream episodes of shows you've not yet downloaded.


  • $4.99/£3.99
Soulver eschews trying to recreate a traditional calculator on your iPhone. Instead, it's akin to jotting down calculations on the back of an envelope, but a magic envelope that pulls the numbers from your in-context sentences and gives you a total. Live currency conversion is built in, and you can save calculations and sync them via Dropbox or iCloud.


  • $1.99/£1.49
We've never been overly impressed with Apple's HDR, and it pales in comparison to vividHDR. The basic concept is the same: stunning, vibrant photos, capturing amazing details in both highlight and shadow. But vividHDR's combination of speed, presets and 'before and after' comparisons results in better photos - and that's what really matters.

ProCamera 8

Pro Camera 8
  • $4.99/£3.99
If you don't feel the iOS Camera app really cuts it, ProCamera 8 should give you what you need: a bunch of extra modes (night; rapid fire; anti-shake; timers) and a dedicated lightbox with a range of editing features and filters. You can even buy vividHDR (see elsewhere in this list) as an IAP.


  • $1.99/£1.49
Every iteration of the iPhone has a superior camera to the previous model, and so it's only right an enterprising developer came out with an app that can turn your crisp and beautiful snaps into something that you might once have seen on an ancient computer.
In Retrospecs, then, you load your photo, select a system, mess about with dither styles, filters and cropping, and bask in retro glory. A wide range of creaky old computers and consoles is covered, so you should be set whether you were into the C64, Spectrum, SNES, or, er, Mattel Aquarius. (C'mon there must be at least one of you who had the last of those?)


  • $1.99/£1.49
In all honesty, we've pretty much had it with filter apps. A new one comes out, and everyone gets all excited, but they pretty much all do the same thing. All of them, that is, apart from Fragment. Rather than offer the usual range of old-school camera filters and adjustment sliders, Fragment instead delves into prismatic photo effects.
In short, this means you get to see what your photos look like through glass collages, smashed mirrors and arty blur effects. Probably not one for the selfie-obsessed crowd, but a must-have download for if you want something a bit more creative and interesting than the norm.


Garage Band
  • $4.99/£3.99
Apple's GarageBand remains an impressive, ambitious app, turning your iPhone into a recording studio. You get synths, loops, drums, guitar amps and a DAW for arranging MIDI data, making it suitable for beginners and pros alike.


  • $9.99/£7.99
With its huge range of amps and effects, ToneStack is an excellent choice for guitarists wanting to make some noise by connecting their instrument to their iPhone. An ABY unit enables you to split the signal, for hugely complex set-ups. And if that's not enough, a slew of IAP provides yet more amps, stomp boxes and features, including an eight-track recorder.


  • $3.99/£2.99
Although we're happy making music on an iPad, the iPhone tends to be better suited to much more focussed composition, as evidenced by loop-maker Figure elsewhere in this selection of apps. Bloom may seem rather more noodly, on account of it being an app for fashioning generative audio, but it's still stripped right back, making it perfect for the smaller screen.
Devised by Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers, Bloom has you tap out patterns, which create visual patterns and ambient melodies. And if that all feels a bit much, Bloom takes over when left idle, potentially providing limitless ambient background goodness.


  • $9.99/£7.99
Although we're fans of the likes of the simple, straightforward Byword, Editorial is *the* app for people who want to have a huge amount of control over creating and processing their output. The writing interface is strong, but what makes Editorial is the means to quickly add custom snippets and integrate workflows for extending the app and saving you time.

Procreate Pocket

Procreate Pocket
  • $2.99/£2.29
For illustrators on the go, Procreate Pocket is a must-have. You get a big range of brushes, transform tools, a superb painting engine, and a full-featured layer system. Alas, there's no IAP for magically improving your digital painting skills.


  • $4.99/£3.99
Workflow is all about automation. You can download sets of actions or compose your own, which can trigger iOS apps and related services. For example, you could create a Home screen icon to call a friend, or build a single-tap icon to get directions to your nearest coffee shop.


  • Free
Although iOS includes iCloud Keychain for securely storing/sharing login and payment details, 1Password is a better system. It's cross-platform, supports multiple identities and secure notes, and enables you to edit login details on your iPhone.
A pro mode IAP ($9.99/£7.99) adds multiple vaults for teams/families, categories for personal documents, tagging and custom fields.

BBC iPlayer

BBC iPlayer
  • Free
BBC iPlayer is our favourite TV catch-up app because it cares about the user experience. There are no ads, you can watch live TV, and you can access content broadcast over the past 30 days. Episodes can be downloaded to watch later, and there's AirPlay support for sending shows to your telly by way of an Apple TV.

Documents 5

Documents 5
  • Free
Until Apple sees fit to give us a Files app for iOS, Documents 5 will have to take the strain. It's really a document reader, designed for displaying PDFs, but in having full iCloud Drive access, it can be used to manage local and remote files, and download documents to your iPhone from the web.

Next for iPhone

  • $2.99/£2.29
The problem with apps for tracking expenses is they're usually dry, complex and time-consuming. Next for iPhone is none of those things, which is probably why we're actually using it.
The app is icon-based, so you just tap the icon closest to the thing you've just bought. (You can add notes to be more specific if you want, but you don't have to.) The Next app then tots everything up, enabling you to look back in horror at the end of the month when you realise you've in fact spent a third of your earnings on absurdly expensive coffee.


  • Free
Duolingo is entirely free from IAP, which is extremely generous given the quality of the app and its potential for helping you learn a new language.
It's packed full of bite-size quizzes that you can dip into at any time, and that gradually build your vocabulary and grammar in any of the ten supported languages.


  • Free
Start using the eBay app and you won't go near the site on a PC again. It's fast, efficiently flags new finds based on your activity, and can be used to create new listings. The built-in bar-code scanner can save you loads of time with the last of those.

Find My iPhone

Fine My iPhone
  • Free
Using Find My iPhone, you can always find where your device is, and keep track of any other devices on the same account. It's very useful if you've misplaced your device or think it's been stolen and want to know where it's at.

Google Translate

Google Translate
  • Free
The revamped Google Translate is an astonishing app. When online, it'll translate written, photographed or spoken text between a huge range of languages. And for English to French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish (and back), the app will try to live-translate whatever's in front of your iPhone's camera — even when you're offline.


  • Free
When you've a sizeable music collection, you can get stuck in a rut and always end up listening to the same thing. Groove tracks your listening habits and cross-references the data with
The result is a constantly evolving selection of automated personalised playlists, which might change your iPhone music-listening habits forever.

Novation Launchpad

Novation Launchpad
  • Free
For beginners keen on making music, Launchpad is perfect. You choose a genre and then trigger loops with a tap. Effects are only a further swipe and tap away. If you really get into the app, there's IAP for further loops and the means to import your own audio.


  • Free
Now as synonymous with mobile exercise as Nike+, RunKeeper is an excellent app, backed by a robust social infrastructure. Using your iPhone's GPS, you can track exercise routes and then share activities with friends. IAP subscriptions are available for 'elite' users, and are ad-free and offer real-time sharing.


  • Free
FaceTime is a great alternative to standard voice calls, but it only works with Apple kit. Skype remains the best widely-used alternative for people you know distinctly lacking in Apple devices.
You get free calls to anyone else using Skype, and cheap calls to anywhere in the world. If you're on Pay and Go, this can be handy, and the app enables iPod touch users to call normal phones too.

TodoMovies 3

TodoMovies 3
  • Free
TodoMovies is a to-do list for movies. Using the clean, efficient interface, you can check out what's on (and, if you like, movies from the past) and fashion a list of films you want to see.
Usefully, the app provides the means to rate every movie, and so extended use results in a list of favourites you can delve into at any time.

TunnelBear VPN

Tunnel Bear VPN
  • Free
For free, TunnelBear VPN gives you 500 MB of private browsing that can worm its way around geo-locking. All you do is fire the app up and tell the bear where to tunnel. If you want unlimited data, it's yours for $2.99/£2.29 per month.


  • Free
It's a pity Twitter has felt the need to hobble third-party clients, given that its own app doesn't appear to need any help these days in fending off the competition. Twitter for iPhone is fast and efficient, boasts useful Connect and Discover views, and expands tweets that contain photos, videos and other media.


  • Free
You can do without most Today view widgets, but Vidgets provides some really useful monitoring tools.
The standalone app is where you manage your icon-like 'vigets', which comprise world clocks and indicators for storage and network speeds. That sole $2.99/£2.29 IAP is primarily for showing your support, but you do get an option for saving space by removing widget titles.

Yousician Guitar

Yousician Guitar
  • Free
To some extent, Yousician Guitar is like Guitar Hero, only you use a real guitar that the app is teaching you how to play.
You start with basic plucking and strumming before moving on to working your way through full songs, the app scoring you as you go. For free, the app only restricts daily play time. To go unlimited, subscribe for $19.99/£14.99 per month.


  • Free
Instapaper was the service and app that kickstarted 'read later', the means to save web pages for later. Unlike Safari's Reading List, Instapaper strips articles back to just text and images, thereby providing an efficient and usable interface.
Premium membership ($2.99/£2.29 per month) unlocks the means to search your archive and add highlights to articles.

The Elements

The Elements
  • $13.99/£9.99
Originally the darling of the iPad, The Elements in late 2013 became a universal app, so it could be enjoyed on iPhones too. A rich, engaging digital book, it tells the story of the periodic table. Each of life's building blocks can be manipulated on the screen, before you delve into related facts and figures.


  • £3.99 (UK only)
We've all seen iPhones cleverly detecting songs playing around them, but Warblr uses similar technology to figure out what nearby songbirds are getting all fighty instead. The louder the input, the better the results, but waggle your iPhone in a bird's general direction and as long as you've a web connection, its song will be interpreted, and a list of possible culprits provided.
The app's not always accurate and it could do with the means to stash multiple recordings to fiddle about with later, but it's otherwise a fine way to learn more about which feathered friends are in the vicinity.

Korg iElectribe

  • $9.99/£7.99
We're unashamedly huge Korg fans when it comes to iOS. The company's iPad apps are superb, but on iPhone everything's been rather simpler fare, until iElectribe. Astonishingly, Korg's squeezed its powerful beat-creation tool into an iPhone, giving you a step sequencer and 300 rhythms to mess about with.
It's admittedly a touch fiddly to use, unless you're blessed with a plus-sized iPhone, but arm yourself with a decent pair of headphones and you'll nonetheless be in rhythm heaven. And for when you're back home or in the studio, surrounded by other kit, the app keeps on plugging away, thanks to support for nanoPAD, nanoKONTROL, Inter-App Audio and Audiobus.


  • $3.99/£2.99
If you've seen tiny humans around iOS devices, you'll have noticed that even those that can't speak beyond bababababa and dadadadada nonetheless merrily swipe and poke at the screens. Metamorphabet capitalises on this ingrained infatuation with shiny touchscreens, and cunningly attempts to teach the alphabet via the medium of surreal interactive animations.
It starts off with A, which when poked grows antlers, transforms into an arch and goes for an amble. Although a few words are a stretch too far (wafting clouds representing a daydream, for example), this is a charming, imaginative and beautifully designed app.

VHS Camcorder

VHS Camcorder
  • $3.99/£2.99
A constant in the world of mobile is device cameras getting better and better. Naturally, then, certain people who own mobile devices clamour to download apps that degrade photos and videos, so they resemble imagery and footage captured during bygone eras. You pretty much know what you're going to get with VHS Camcorder, a time machine of sorts back to the 1980s that makes your video look like it's decades old.
The app's settings are particularly fun: 480p intentionally disables widescreen, and 'Tilting Device Makes Things Worse' is actually a switch you can toggle. One negative is there's no import, so you can't keep a clean version of your video and just use the app for later adding effects; but perhaps that's the point- it's all about authenticity. And fluorescent socks.


  • $4.99/£3.99
Photoshop is so ingrained in people's minds when it comes to image editing that it's become a verb. Oddly, though, Adobe's largely abandoned high-end mobile apps, choosing instead to create simpler 'accessories' for the iPhone and iPad, augmenting rather than aping its desktop products. Valiantly filling the void is Pixelmator, a feature-rich and truly astonishing mobile Photoshop.
It's packed full of tools and adjustment options, and works well whether you're into digital painting or creating multi-layered photographic masterpieces. On iPhone, Pixelmator's naturally a bit cramped compared to using the app on iPad, but at the price it remains an insanely great bargain.

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Tumblr's latest update lets you make your own GIFs
Tumblr's latest update lets you make your own GIFs
Tumblr, realizing that if a picture is worth a thousand words, an animated one must be worth millions, is giving users the power to make their own GIFs. Tumblr's GIF maker, included with the Tumblr iOS app's latest update, will let you make your own looping video without the need for any outside software.
"GIFs are great! But actually making them kinda sucks," said Tumblr in an official staff post. "Today [...] any video (or burst!) on your iOS device can be GIFFed, edited and posted using the Tumblr app."
All one needs to get started making GIFs are videos or burst photography sets saved to their device's Camera Roll. The Tumblr app does the rest, marking what footage is fit for GIF-ification and can change how fast the GIF plays, if it should loop continuously, and even allows cropping and zooming.
The GIF maker also allows for photosets to be made using multiple photos, creating an animated alternative to slideshows that is built ready-to-post with Tumblr's "#made with tumblr" tag. The site is already well-known for hosting a massive repository of GIFs, with everything from memes to infographics to quotations galore being searchable on the blog service's website.
The use of GIFs across social media, especially on mobile, was been instrumental in the popularity of the looping visual file type. Facebook recently added GIF support, while third-party apps like Giphy and Giffiti have sprung up to let users make and post their own GIFs while on-the-go.
The GIF maker update is currently available only on iOS, but Tumblr states that an Android version will be following up "in a little bit."

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This is reportedly the official Apple Watch charging dock
This is reportedly the official Apple Watch charging dock
New leaked images may have just given us a glimpse of the rumored official charging dock for the Apple Watch.
So far, if you've wanted a charging dock or stand for the Apple Watch, third-party options are your only choice, or, you could just stick to using the charging cable.
But new leaked images from German blog showcase an Apple-branded charging dock for the Apple wearable, indicating we may have an official option on the way very soon.
The images, some of which are shown above, reveal a round, CD-like dock with a middle part that can flip up, so that you can let your Apple Watch sit flat against the dock or sit up horizontally around the middle disc.
A Lightning cable is attached to the side of the charging pad, with the whole set-up looking very minimalistic.
As for a price, another image from a French website, as spotted by 9to5Mac, has the dock sporting a rather hefty price tag of 89 euros, which is about US$95.
Of course, nothing has been announced by Apple, so the dock may not be an official Apple product - however, with the new Apple Watch OS 2 update bringing a new horizontal nightstand mode, we are inclined to think a dock is incoming.

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Parrot Bebop 2 drone offers twice the battery life for a decent price
Parrot Bebop 2 drone offers twice the battery life for a decent price
Parrot's first Bebop drone provided a first-person drone experience by allowing users to tap into the drone's point of view with Oculus Rift (along with other types of headsets).
Now, the French company is back with another entry to the drone world: the Bebop 2.
Parrot Bebop 2 drone
Drones have become an increasingly crowded market, but Parrot wants to edge out the competition with the Bebop 2's mid-range price of $550 (about £360, AU$770) and battery life that's slightly above-average at 25 minutes.
Alone, these two factors aren't anything to fuss over, but together, you're getting a decent deal. Most drones run upwards of $200 (about £130, AU$280), but their batteries don't hold out. For a flight time of 20 minutes or more, you're looking at price tags that range $800 (about £525, AU$1120) and up.
Parrot Bebop 2 drone
The Bebop 2 also has all the features of the first Bebop and more. There's still a 14MP fisheye lens camera, though Parrot says the actual lens is new. There's also 8GB of onboard flash storage.
The quadcopter is faster than its predecessor, able to travel at 37 miles per hour, while the first Bebop could only hit 24MPH. It can also reach maximum speed in 14 seconds, brakes in 4.5 seconds and rises vertically at 13MPH. According to Parrot, the copter can get up to 328 feet in 20 seconds or less. The Bebop 2 has a connection of 984 feet.
Parrot Bebop 2 drone
Though it weighs 500g and looks to be about the same size as the previous Bebop, there are seven sensors on board the latest drone. An ultrasound sensor analyzes flight altitude up to 16 feet, the pressure sensor can measure air pressure and analyze altitude beyond 16 feet, and the accelerometer and 3-axis gyroscope ensure that the drone remains stable during flight. A 3-axis magentometer helps define the drone's position like a compass.
Parrot Bebop 2 drone
The fisheye camera is stabilized on a 3-axis framework that captures images in 1080p (horizontally or vertically), which can be streamed live to the piloting device.

Drones for all

During the drone's reveal event, the Bebop 2 was demoed by Henri Seydoux, Parrot founder and CEO, who apparently is "really bad at flying drones" but still can manage to keep the gadget in the air.
Parrot Bebop 2 drone
Seydoux noted that the new Bebop is just as simple to fly as the first one, stating it's "the drone everyone can fly." The stability and maneuverability are due in part to a built-in autopilot system that helps guide fliers. Users only need to connect their iOS or Android phone or tablet via Wi-Fi to direct the drone. They can then tilt the connected device (forward, backward, left or right) or touch the landing button to control it.
Parrot Bebop 2 drone
The Bebop 2's big selling points are that boasts a longer battery life without completely breaking the bank. It's certainly not cheap by any means, but it remains in a solid position between the premium drones and the lower-cost leisure quadcopters.
Parrot Bebop 2 drone
You can connect a Skycontroller for an additional 300 bucks, or another type of headset. The bundle and the single Bebop 2, which you can pick up in white or red, will be available on December 14.

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Buying Guide: 10 best Bluetooth speakers available today
Buying Guide: 10 best Bluetooth speakers available today

Best Bluetooth speakers

Update: Bye, bye to the TDK Trek Flex and Sony SRS-X11. We've added the excellent Fugoo and JBL Xtreme to the list in their place.
Your phone cut the cord, now it's time for you to set your music free and buy a Bluetooth speaker. Thankfully, there's one suited for everyone out there.
Some Bluetooth speakers excel at packing in as much functionality as the unit can handle while keeping the price down. Other speakers shuck excess functionality in favor of premium build materials instead. Whatever path you choose to go down, you'll be greeted with many options to suit your personal tastes.
The only thing standing in your way is sorting out what's worth your money and what most definitely is not. To help you in your journey, we've compiled a list of the best Bluetooth speakers available right now in terms of value, performance and design.

1. Fugoo

A small Bluetooth speaker that raises the bar
Weight: 1 pound | Battery life: Up to 40 hours | Wireless range: 30+ feed | Frequency response: 60Hz -20kHz | Drivers: Two 28mm neodymium tweeters, two 39mm neodymium aluminum domed mid/woofers, two 43mm x 54mm passive radiators | NFC: No | Aux-in: Yes | USB charging: Yes
Awesome sound
Amazing battery life
No flaws to note
Meet the Bluetooth speaker market's best-kept secret. The Fugoo comes in your choice of jacket style (Style, Tough, or Sport), but no matter which one you choose, this speaker is just as suited for the elements as it is your coffee table.
Despite its small size, this option offers surprisingly good sound performance and, get this, up to 40 hours of battery life when listening at medium volume. I was able to get nearly 20 hours out of it at a high volume.
Read the full review: Fugoo
Creative Muvo Mini

2. Creative Muvo Mini

A capable, weatherproof Bluetooth speaker with subtle style
Weight: .6 pounds | Battery life: 10 hours | Wireless range: 32 feet | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: Two micro drivers and one bass radiator | NFC: Yes | Bluetooth version: 4.0 | Aux-in: Yes | USB charging: No
10-hour battery
Can't charge devices
It's not tough these days to find a Bluetooth speaker full of desirable features like full sound, weather-proofing and a good-performing battery. Most of the time, however, the options capable of all those feats won't be cheap. That's where Creative's Muvo Mini comes in to play.
For $59 (£49, AU$69), this speaker handles all these impressive feats, wiping the floor clean of the competition in the process. It'd be enough to recommend it based on its cheap price alone, but it's actually a really good all-around speaker, so there's that too.
Read the full review: Creative Muvo Mini
UE Boom

3. UE Boom

A Bluetooth speaker packed with surprises at every turn
Weight: 1.1 pounds | Battery life: 15 hours | Wireless range: 50 feet | Frequency response: 90Hz - 20kHz | Drivers: Two 1.5" drivers and two 2" passive radiators | NFC: Yes | Bluetooth version: N/A | Aux-in: Yes | USB charging: Yes
Unmatched style
Impressive feature set
Too dependent on phone
Not true 360-degree sound
There aren't that many Bluetooth speakers out there with as much "pop" as the UE Boom. For $199, it packs in a ton of functionality – much more that your standard Bluetooth speaker – thanks to the companion app for Android and iOS. With it, you can customize your own equalizer and even join it up with another Boom or with it's little bro, the UE Mini Boom, for a surround sound effect.
Read the full review: UE Boom
Harman Infinity One

4. Harman Infinity One

This stunning Bluetooth speaker lives up to the legacy
Weight: 2.8 pounds | Battery life: 10 hours | Wireless range: 30+ feet | Frequency response: 70Hz-20kHz | Drivers: Four 1.8" drivers and two passive radiators | NFC: Yes | Aux-in: Yes | Bluetooth version: N/A | Weatherproofing: No | Charges devices over USB: Yes
Vibrant, rich sound
Charges devices
High asking price
The Harman Infinity One is the most expensive speaker on our list and it's also one of the best values around. The sound performance is best-in-class with amazingly deep bass and rich sound making up the rest of the signature.
Additionally, this speaker houses every modern feature that one could desire in a Bluetooth speaker, like NFC connectivity, USB charging and conference calling. A big part of the price goes to the stunning design put forward by Harman. The entire enclosure is a matte grille that allows for sound to pour out of each side. You're getting your money's worth here.
Read the full review: Harman Infinity One
UE Mini Boom

5. UE Mini Boom

Big sound from a tiny, ruggedized Bluetooth speaker
Weight: .6 pounds | Battery life: 10 hours | Wireless range: 50 feet | Frequency response: 130Hz - 20kHz | Drivers: Two 1.5" drivers, one 3" x 1.5" passive radiator | NFC: Yes | Aux-in: Yes | Bluetooth version: N/A | Weatherproofing: No | Charges devices over USB: No
Lively design
Surprisingly deep sound
Foggy highs
Don't knock the UE Mini Boom for its small size. What it offers out of the box in terms of sound performance and battery life isn't just impressive, it's a steal at $99 (£79, AU$99).
Just as we were, you'll likely be surprised by the capabilities of this speaker through its companion app. Packed into a fun, durable form-factor, this speaker is a fantastic value for music lovers.
(Sadly, this speaker has been discontinued. I'm going to keep it here a little while longer, as it's still pretty easy to find at a good price. At that, I definitely recommend that you pick it up.)
Read the full review: UE Mini Boom
Best Bluetooth speakers

6. JBL Charge 2 Plus

Improvements to last year's hit speaker make it even better
Weight: 1.3 pounds | Battery life: 12 hours | Wireless range: 30+ feet | Frequency response: 75Hz – 20kHz | Drivers: Two 1.7" drivers and two passive radiators | NFC: No | Bluetooth version: 3.0 | Aux-in: Yes USB charging: Yes
Excellent sound
A little expensive
Coming in at $150 (£129, about AU$170) is the JBL Charge 2+. It's about the size of a large can of energy drink, but I promise that it has more functionality than one. It offers impressive sound that's much more full-bodied than I'd thought a speaker this small could produce.
Not just that, speakerphone support is seamless and the tethering with three devices simultaneously via Social Mode makes it a fun party accessory. Lastly, outdoor enthusiasts will love that this speaker is also splashproof and can last up to 12 hours. You can even use it to charge your phone or tablet in a pinch.
Read the full review: JBL Charge 2 Plus
Bose SoundLink Color

7. Bose SoundLink Color

A vibrant Bluetooth speaker that packs impressive sound
Weight: 1.2 pounds | Battery life: 8 hours | Wireless range: 30 feet | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: N/A | NFC: No | Aux-in: Yes | Bluetooth version: N/A | Weatherproofing: No | Charges devices over USB: No
Fun, curvy design
Booming sound
Lacks some modern features
When it comes to Bluetooth speakers, Bose is a major player. But something that's been missing from the company's product line is a relatively affordable option that has the same full-bodied sound crammed into a small form-factor.
With the $130 (£120, AU$180) SoundLink Color, Bose has achieved just that, plus a splash of color. There are a variety of flavors to choose from, but whichever you choose, you'll be treated to stellar sound and battery performance. Bose performance now comes cheap with this portable Bluetooth speaker.
Read the full review: Bose SoundLink Color
JBL Xtreme

8. JBL Xtreme

High performance wrapped in a stylish, durable shell
Weight: 4.6 pounds | Battery life: 15 hours | Wireless range: 30+ feed | Frequency response: 70Hz -20kHz | Drivers: Two 2.48" woofers | NFC: No | Aux-in: Yes | USB charging: Yes
Ports difficult to access
It's impossible not to compare JBL's rough and tough Xtreme to the stellar Infinity One. After all, its parent company, Harman, is responsible for both creations.
The Xtreme might look a whole lot like the One, but it sets itself apart with a rugged build that is forgiving of dings and short falls. Its battery can pump music for a very solid 15 hours, too. It edges out most, if not all, similarly priced competitors in terms of value, but falls short ever so slightly of the One's sound performance.
Read the full review: JBL Xtreme
Fluance Fi30

9. Fluance Fi30

Music to your ears (and your wallet)
Weight: 8.3 pounds | Battery life: N/A | Wireless range: 30+ feet | Frequency response: 50Hz - 20kHz | Drivers: Two 3" woven glass fiber composite drivers | NFC: No | Aux-in: Yes | Bluetooth version: 2.1 | Weatherproofing: No | Charges devices over USB: Yes
Strong sound performance
No internal battery
One look at this speaker might make you think that it costs a small fortune. Coming in aggressively at $149, the Fluance Fi30 loves defying expectations and the act doesn't stop at its shockingly low price. It also sounds great. With room-filling audio, we've got a value-packed speaker that can bring down the house.
Unlike the others on this list, the Fi30 isn't portable at all. Not just for its size, but also because it requires being plugged into an electrical socket for power. Minor negatives aside, this makes for the perfect porch companion or boombox-sized speaker for your pad.
Read the full review: Fluance Fi30
Creative Sound Blaster Roar SR20

10. Creative Sound Blaster Roar SR20

Tell iHome to go home
Weight: 2.5 pounds | Battery life: 8 hours | Wireless range: 40 feet | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: One 2.5" driver, two 1.5" drivers and two passive radiators | NFC: Yes | Aux-in: Yes | Bluetooth version: 3.0 | Weatherproofing: No | Charges devices over USB: Yes
Sleek, novel design
Great lows and mids
Not the loudest speaker out there
A few useless functions
The Creative Sound Blaster Roar SR 20 packs novel functionality and roaring sound into an appealing body for a price that rings it at a pleasing tune of $129 (about £104, AU$155). This speaker is about the size of a hard-cover book and can compliment a bookshelf or a table top nicely.
Touching on features, the built-in internal microphone allows you to make or take calls with ease. The Roar SR20 supports a microSD card, which you can use either to record calls onto or listen to stored music from. Something else you don't see often in a Bluetooth speaker is an overdrive button. "Roar" mode cranks the sound performance up a few notches.
Read the full review: Creative Sound Blaster Roar SR20
We'll update this page as we review more speakers, so stay tuned. Let us know if you have suggestions for us to check out in the comments below.

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Latest OS X El Capitan beta strives to improve Mac performance
Latest OS X El Capitan beta strives to improve Mac performance
Apple released the fourth beta version of its desktop operating system. OS X 10.11.2 El Capitan beta 4 is now available to developers and public beta testers for download through the Mac App Store.
Apple did not provide details of specific changes in its latest release, likely focusing on under-the-hood tweaks to fix bugs, update security and improve performance. OS X 10.11.1 introduced issues that have been well documented in Apple's support forums, such as slow device performance, broken keychain access, freezes and problems with the Mail app. Hopefully, these issues will get resolved when OS X 10.11.2 is released to the public after successful beta testing.
The beta is said to support Wi-Fi calling with partner carrier AT&T's NumberSync feature when used with iOS 9.2 beta. This gives Apple devices the same phone number regardless of which device the call was originated from. In previous releases, Apple asked users to test the performance of graphics, Wi-Fi, USB, and networking. Additionally, Apple also asked users to observe performance of the Mail, Calendar, Notes, Photos and Spotlight apps on their Mac.

OS X 10.11.1

The latest beta arrives just a week after Apple began seeding the third beta and a month since releasing OS X 10.11.1 to Mac owners.
The release of OS X 10.11.1 introduced more than 150 new emoji to users, fixed compatibility with Office 2016 and resolved issues with Apple's Mail app.
If you're part of Apple's developer or public beta program, Apple recommends that you backup your Mac before you check the Mac App Store to download the latest update.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 5 comes with an idiot's guide to inserting the S Pen
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 comes with an idiot's guide to inserting the S Pen
You've just purchased your shiny new Samsung Galaxy Note 5. You're excited to get your hands on the included S Pen so you can select, edit and jot with the fancy stylus to your heart's content. But wait ... which way will you put it back into the phone once you're finished? You don't remember!
Thankfully, Samsung has taken measures to spell out which end is which for new Galaxy Note 5 users. Packaging on freshly unboxed units come with a sticker on the phone's screen that clearly displays how to do it: put the S Pen back in nib-first. Putting it in backwards could lead it becoming jammed inside the device, potentially damaging it when extracted again.
Once more for the back row: When finished using the S Pen with your Galaxy Note 5, place it back inside front-first, just like it was packaged. Do not insert the back end into the phone, as it could jam or disrupt features that detect if the pen is in or not. Putting in the S Pen from the side is right out.
All joking aside, inserting the pen incorrectly could cause permanent damage to the phone. While it seems like the sort of thing to be left up to common sense, we can't argue with any measures taken by Samsung to prevent users from prematurely damaging their phones.
YouTube :
Top Image Credit - J. Williams (YouTube)

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Interview: Former New York Yankees slugger is training amateurs to hit a home run - in VR
Interview: Former New York Yankees slugger is training amateurs to hit a home run - in VR

VR is coming to baseball

Baseball gaming simulators like MLB: The Show try to recreate the excitement and challenge of professional baseball, but these hardly improve your actual athletic skills. To that end, one sports VR company is using the latest advancements in virtual reality technology to combine the fun and challenge of a game simulator with realistic graphics and effective batting practice. Plus, it's got former MLB slugger Jason Giambi going to bat for it.
I recently spoke with Giambi, a five-time All-Star and MVP, who has partnered with EON Sports to launch Project OPS, a virtual reality software for mobile devices that helps Little Leaguers and amateurs visualize the strike zone and recognize different types of pitches. The app purports to improve the user's "OPS": a hitter's statistical ability to hit for both contact and power.
Giambi made a name for himself as a home run-hitting juggernaut for the New York Yankees and Oakland Athletics, but, as described by the New York Times, his true batting skills came from his "uncanny ability to recognize" and predict pitches based on a pitcher's throwing motion. If a pitch deviated from his mental strike zone, he remained "as still as a statue."
So when EON Sports CEO Brendan Reilly, whom I also spoke, first showed Giambi test footage of a virtual reality pitcher, he immediately recognized its unique potential to train pros and kids alike in improving their strike zone awareness.
In EON's simulation, players stand in the batter's box and watch a pitcher throw toward them across home plate. Armed with a Bluetooth controller instead of a bat, the players must input whether or not the pitch was a strike, then progress toward determining the type of pitch (fastball, changeup, slider or curveball) as their practice scores improve.
Giambi isn't just endorsing the technology: he acts like a coach for users, too. He narrates interactive tutorials to users in-app, teaching them how to approach their at-bats. The startup package include more than 30 interactive challenges, along with Randomized and Customized Pitching Modes.
The Project OPS package - the mobile software, a custom-made VR headset for your smartphone, and a Bluetooth controller - can be pre-ordered for $159 (about £105, AU$224), but as the software runs on every virtual mobile platform, from Google Cardboard to Samsung Gear VR, you can purchase OPS minus the hardware for $59 (about £39, AU$83).
Project Ops

Replacing scouting reports with in 'game' practice

If I learned anything from speaking with Reilly and Giambi, it's that players and coaches are fed up with traditional scouting reports, and have been for a long time. Reilly recalled his time as a basketball coaching assistant at Kentucky University, where the players and coaches studied endless game film and wrote down strategies and player information for one upcoming opponent after another, to the point that everyone became inundated with too much information. "You can only digest so much with pen and paper," he says. Only after they faced opponents - seeing how they played with their own eyes and developing muscle memory - were they ready, ironically, to face them.
This problem only gets worse in baseball, according to Giambi. All game footage of at-bats and pitching motions comes from behind the pitcher, where you can memorize a pitcher's speed and pitch selection in the abstract, but can't actually "feel the pitch coming toward you" or "watch the ball leave his hand" and know where it'll likely end up.
Baseball players "need competition" to improve, Giambi argues. Other team sports like football and soccer let you train in scrimmages, but not in baseball.
"The only way to really get better is in the game," Giambi says. "Batting practice just never gives the same feel."
So unless a team wants to tire out its pitchers, typical hitting practice uses pitching machines, training your muscles but not your brain and instincts.
That's what makes virtual reality potentially so valuable for mentally training players: it provides the opportunity to immerse yourself in faux-game situations against your upcoming opponent. While the regular Project OPS consumer package has you facing a generic pitcher, Reilly says he's been selling an elite package to major league teams with the promise of facing customized aces.
In other words, before a game against the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, your players could potentially bat against a virtual 6-foot-4 lefty who throws 93 mph fastballs 54% of the time, and, proportionally for Kershaw's other pitches, to his favorite corners of the strike zone.
Project OPS' consumer edition may not have this level of variation, but it does place a premium on realism. Giambi was impressed when he first tried the product, but immediately saw flaws in its rendering of the pitcher, from how he released the ball to how the ball "skipped" out of his hand. Giambi helped iron out the kinks, and now he believes the realism gives amateurs the chance to practice their at-bats in "game" situations.
Project Ops

Swing away (eventually)

By designing Project OPS for mobile platforms, EON made the technology affordable and accessible to a huge potential user base of Little Leaguers around the world. Whereas most advanced baseball training centers can cost upwards of tens of thousands of dollars to build and wouldn't be accessible to most amateur players, Project OPS users can spend far less than that, and use it anywhere.
Unfortunately, designing for mobile devices has inherent limitations, most notably creating a realistic simulation that includes actually hitting virtual pitches. When I asked why they didn't include this feature, Reilly replied that a bat accessory with sensors that register the timing, speed and location of your swing in relation to Project OPS' pitch data would be an expensive piece of hardware. Combine that cost with an accurate in-app rendering of your swing and the flight of the ball, and suddenly the Project OPS app isn't widely accessible and affordable to everyday users anymore. Reilly ended his explanation with a quip that he "isn't sure it's ever a good idea for kids to swing a bat while wearing a headset."
His MLB-catered package does allow for accurate hitting and tracking of balls with haptic feedback, but in expensive, dedicated facilities with virtual projectors and motion-tracking sensors on all four walls and the floor (as shown above). That's not something your average Little League team can afford, or even needs.
Still, Reilly and Giambi both suggest that EON's future development plans include patching in hitting software in some capacity, though they remained mum on the technical details. If the focus remains on affordability and mobile access, then I predict their future motion sensor technology would likely resemble a Wii motion plus controller that focuses on the timing and positioning of the sensor device as opposed to registering the movement of your body to calculate the angle and strength of your swing.
Project Ops

Visualizing baseball's virtual future

We at techradar see wearables and virtual reality as the future of professional sports, and EON's team feels confident they can impact the careers of current and future professional ballplayers. So while the technology is relatively new, both the CEO and celebrity spokesman have bold ideas for where to take the product next.
Giambi says he loves the fact that the technology is accessible to the next generation of ballplayers. Right now, Project OPS is an exciting form of practice and self-improvement, but he envisions it becoming a platform for virtual competition across the globe as well. "Imagine a young pitcher in China facing off against a kid in Texas," he says. With Project OPS, this could happen soon.
When asked if he could see placing users in famous in-game situations, like the final at-bat in a World Series game, Giambi enthusiastically supported the idea.
These developments are likely years off, considering EON first needs to build its user base for the current package (and patch in hitting). Reilly tells me that they intend to eventually branch out from football, their first virtual reality platform, and baseball into soccer, basketball, and softball, but that "as a startup" they can only scale up after they have established complete software packages for their current products to keep customers satisfied.
Giambi, along with MLB Network analyst Dan O'Dowd, are the first celebrity endorsers of Project OPS, but Reilly is confident they will find more experts willing to team up with the product as well. Once they bring more big names on, they plan to sell paid expansion packs with more lessons narrated by these experts so that users can continue to improve with fresh content.
I left my conversation with Giambi and Reilly with a sense of excitement for what this technology could do to help young baseball hopefuls, and regret that I didn't have access to it when I was younger. Project OPS has impressed professional athletes and experts, and could help kids and amateurs learn to hit like Giambi by waiting for the right pitch. Pitchers had best beware of this technology, once it reaches the level where batters have already hit against them a hundred times - virtually - before stepping to the plate.
  • Techradar's take on the most famous VR headset to date - the Oculus Rift

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Google Photos just solved the problem of old photos taking up space on your phone
Google Photos just solved the problem of old photos taking up space on your phone
Google has introduced a new button in Google Photos that will help you clear up some precious space on your phone or tablet.
Google Photos, which reached 100 million active monthly users last month after splitting away from Google+ into its own standalone app, backs up photos from your device automatically.
The new "Free Up Space" button lives in the Settings tab, and after tapping it, it will recognize and delete old photos that have already been backed up into the cloud, but only after confirming you want to delete the pictures.
Unfortunately, the new on-device storage saving feature is only available through the Android version of the app right now, but the updated app can also delete copies stored on SD cards on certain Android devices, not just the onboard device storage.

Storage options

The "Free Up Space" option was previously available to users that were backing up photos in full resolution, or Original Quality, but this back-up option had the photos counting against your storage quota.
The button is now open to users backing up photos through Google Photos in High Quality, which is a compressed version of the image that doesn't count against your online storage quota, making Google Photos' unlimited storage option even more attractive.
Google is also rolling out an update to Google Photos on the web, which should stop you from reaching you online storage quota. And with most pictures likely to have been taken with your phone, compression shouldn't affect your photos too horribly.
If you've almost reached your online storage quota though, from tomorrow you'll be able to downgrade any of your full resolution, Original Quality pictures saved to Google Photos to High Quality compressed versions, freeing up space.

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7 things small businesses should know about accepting mobile payments
7 things small businesses should know about accepting mobile payments
While mobile payments are still not nearly as commonplace as Apple and other players may have hoped, they are becoming more popular. The majority of retailers offering mobile payments are big businesses, with roughly only 32% of small to medium-sized businesses (SMB) currently using them.
But SMBs are always behind large enterprises when it comes to using technology, and for many small and local retailers it's just a matter of time — and consumer demand — before they get on board with the budding trend.
That time should be coming sooner than later considering the soaring growth trajectory of mobile in general, which pretty much nobody can argue. What's more, mobile payments make life a little easier for many customers who appreciate the security and convenience of the system.
If you're looking to roll out mobile payments in your business, here's a list of must-knows.

1. Meet the players

The emerging marketplaces is filling up with newcomers, but some of the heavy hitters in the mobile payments space right now are PayPal Here, Google Wallet, Apple Pay, and Samsung Pay. There's also Dwolla, Venmo, Stripe, LevelUp and Square Cash. It may seem like a headache to go about sorting out the differences between each company's offering, but it's incredibly worthwhile to do your homework. Keep in mind that while it's tempting to go with whichever seems the most popular, consider your business' category and needs. What works for a fancy restaurant that expects hefty payments most likely won't work as well for a 99-cent store that deals more in smaller transactions.

2. Prepare for the cost

Are you one of those businesses that discourages costumers from paying with a credit card because of the added expense the credit card company serves you? Well, get ready for another expense! Most mobile payment companies don't charge a monthly fee, but charge "around 3% for most cards," said Marc Prosser, co-founder of Fit Small and Fit Biz Loans. "Some providers will discount for a monthly fee [which] is typically only a good deal if you're doing $2k or more in mobile transactions."

3. Update your other tech

It would be great if you could just order some hardware from Samsung, Apple, or Google and be all set with a mobile payment system, but as Steven Aldrich, SVP of business applications at GoDaddy points out, you'll need to be sure that you have up-to-date point of sale (POS) technology that accepts credit cards and Near Field Communications, the technology that enables customers to make payments using their smartphones in your store. NFC is a household feature for smartphones nowadays — it needs to be for any business using mobile payments.
"For SMB's who don't already have a point of sale capable of accepting contactless payments, the next step is to contact their bank and ask them about setting it up for you," advised Andrew Hubbard, co-founder of Gainful Media. "Most of the bigger banks in the U.S are capable of setting up contactless payments for SMBs."

4. Hope everyone else has updated too

We're all well aware of the proliferation of smartphones, but not all smartphones can come with mobile wallets. In fact, only models made within the past two years have them, Hubbard points out.
"This means that initially a large percentage of your customers might not be able to use it even if you support it," Hubbard said.

5. Master the billing

A mobile pay transaction is typically quick and easy for the consumer, and ideally for you, too. But if you're going to be filing a ton of mobile pay invoices, you'll want to team up with an online service so that you don't get bogged down. "Get your business up to speed with digital finances [and] make sure to use an online service that will automate your invoices," said Aldrich. "It will simplify following up with customers and will guarantee you always stay on top of payments."

6. How it works

As with a credit card, a mobile payment will be accepted or declined immediately upon payment. Different mobile payment systems call for different protocol from the customer. Some will require a signature or a pin entry. "This depends on the store and transaction amount," said Hubbard. "For Apple devices, customers must scan their fingerprint on their mobile device in order to use Apple Pay."

7. Be mindful of security risks

Digital wallets carry far less risk that physical wallets because they have more layers of security than plastic credit cards.
"In accordance with EMV chip card readers, Apple Pay and Android Pay facilitate secure transaction through tokenization, which instantly converts sensitive card holder data into indecipherable code at the point of sale. The trio of EMV, Tokenization and P2PE work together to form the proverbial "Holy Grail" of any secure payment transaction," said Jeremy Gumbley, CTO of payment services provider Creditcall.
But security breaches can still occur. Recently, LoopPay, a mobile wallet subsidiary of Samsung Pay, was hacked into, and while the hackers appear to have only broken into the corporate network, and did not infiltrate costumer data, the incident shook the faith of many mobile payment loyalists.
Such a massive hacking can't really be helped at a local merchant level, but Don Bush, VP of marketing at fraud and risk protection company Kount, says businesses can do their part by "talking with fraud teams to understand both the risks and rewards [of mobile pay]."
If there is an instance of fraud, [it] is treated in the same way as your current credit and debit transactions," said Hubbard.
It's not quite worthy of a spot on this listicle, but another thing SMBs should do is…be excited, and show that zeal to your customers. If they use it, chances are they're feeling psyched about mobile pay, too. And research shows that the path you're embarking on will only become more widely traveled upon.
"Our data shows that the average online and in-store transaction amounts were greater than those on mobile devices overall until the first six months of 2015, in which purchases on the iPhone ($129.94) and iPad ($164.19) began to exceed non-mobile transactions ($106.94)," said Bush.

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Asus makes internet TV as easy as A, B, Chromebit
Asus makes internet TV as easy as A, B, Chromebit
After first announcing a low-priced Chrome OS computer on a stick back at the end of March, Asus has officially released the Chromebit CS10.
For the low price of $85 (about £56, AU$120), the Asus Chromebit is gum packet-sized micro desktop that transforms any display with an HDMI input into a smart, cloud-connected display. Other than a screen, all it needs power and a Bluetooth-connected keyboard and mouse to work.
The Chromebit is more or less an Asus Chromebook Flip packed into a much smaller package. The dongle comes outfitted with a quad-core 1.8GHz Rockchip 3288-C with Mali 760 graphics, 2GB of memory, 16GB of solid state storage, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and a USB 2.0 port on the end.
While Asus and Google have teamed up to introduce the Chromebit CS10 as the world's smallest Chrome device, there have been plenty of similar dongles out of China.
We're still in the midst completing our full review on the Chromebit, so stay tuned to how it stacks up to other PCs-on-a-stick running Windows 10 from the likes of Intel and Lenovo.

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iPad mini 4 has a better display than the iPad Pro
iPad mini 4 has a better display than the iPad Pro
Thinking of splashing out on the premium iPad Pro? Well if you want the best display Apple has to offer then you might want to look to the smaller and cheaper iPad mini 4.
In a comprehensive shoot-out DisplayMate has found that the iPad mini 4 not only has the best iPad screen, but the best LCD tablet display full stop.
The site declared it a near 'textbook perfect' LCD display and found that it topped the iPad Pro and iPad Air 2 for colour gamut, colour accuracy, contrast accuracy, performance in ambient light and overall image and picture quality.

Contrast compromise

The only category where it was topped by another iPad was contrast ratio. The iPad mini 4 still achieved a 'very good' result here, but as it doesn't have a photo aligned LCD the iPad Air 2 and iPad Pro top it, with the Pro achieving the best rating.
The iPad mini 4 also achieved record breaking scores in some categories, such as screen reflectance and colour accuracy, the latter of which it's tied for with the Microsoft Surface Pro 4.
None of which is to say the iPad Pro and iPad Air 2 aren't worth buying. They tested well too and the extra size could definitely come in handy, but if all you want is the best quality screen then you probably want the iPad mini 4.
Given that it's been found to have the best LCD tablet display it also tops most of the competition outside of Apple's camp.
It's only real competition comes from OLED screens, such as those found on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2, which have their own strengths, for example displaying true blacks.

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