All posts in “Tech News”

Nintendo announces updated Switch with better battery life

Nintendo is unveiling an updated version of its Switch console today, with promises of improved battery life. The new model will include approximately two extra hours of battery life, bringing the estimates of usage to between 4.5 and 9 hours. Nintendo’s current Switch has an estimated battery life of between 2.5 and 6.5 hours.

Nintendo’s Switch product page doesn’t reveal exactly how the company has achieved this improved battery life, but it’s likely thanks to a new system-on-chip inside and updated memory. A recent FCC listing revealed that Nintendo was planning to update the Switch with a new CPU and storage. This new model, dubbed HAC-001(-01), should start appearing in stores soon. You’ll need to check for serial numbers starting with XKW to make sure you get the model with the best battery life.

Nintendo’s updated Switch comes just a week after the company unveiled the Switch Lite, a smaller and cheaper model designed for handheld play. The Switch Lite has a smaller 5.5-inch touch display, and battery life between 3 and 7 hours. Nintendo is planning to make the Switch Lite available for $199 on September 20th.

There’s a giant pink robot in Fortnite now

We’re nearing the end of season 9 of Fortnite, which can only mean one thing: another massive live event is on the horizon. And the teases have already started. Over the past week or so, in the lead-up to season 10, a massive robot has slowly been assembled inside of a now-dormant volcano (the same one that erupted in season 8, drastically changing Fortnite’s island).

It started with a mysterious metal foot appearing, and for the last few days a giant, headless mech dominated the island’s landscape. Now the mechanical creation is finished and it looks like a cross between Voltron and Fortnite’s iconic Cuddle Team Leader character. You can check out the towering robot in the game right now.

Earlier this season, a giant monster, which had been frozen beneath a castle, began swimming around the island. This, combined with the robot, has led many to believe that a Pacific Rim-style mech-vs-kaiju battle is on the horizon. There have been other small changes around the map as well. The massive power cord that runs from Loot Lake to Neo Tilted has been slightly damaged, and there are various warning signs in the city along with Mega Mall, suggesting a change is on the way for the game’s more futuristic locations.

While we don’t know what’s going to happen, we at least know when it’ll be happening. Along with the construction of the robot, a series of countdown clocks have also popped up across the island, at each of the floating sky platforms. According to the countdown, you’ll want to be in the game on Saturday, July 20th, at 2PM ET.

Whatever ends up happening, these kinds of world-changing events are becoming the norm for Fortnite, particularly when it comes time to kick off a new season. Previous events have included a dramatic rocket launch, an in-game Marshmello concert, a rolling purple cube that opened a portal to a different dimension, and a massive snowstorm created by an undead ice king. With giant robots and monsters, the latest is shaping up to be the biggest yet.

Fortnite season 9 is slated to end on August 1st, just days after the $30 million Fortnite World Cup in New York.

Along with the new pink mech, Fortnite has also been updated to version 9.40, which includes a handful of minor changes. The most notable is the addition of new legendary and epic variants of the tactical shotgun. You can check out the complete patch notes right here.

What could Elon Musk’s Hyperloop stations look like? This VR video shows you an idea.

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The future of high-speed transport has been hypothetically realised in a new rendered VR video of Elon Musk’s potential Hyperloop stations, from the experience of travelling in a pod to the actual features of the station itself.

Musk’s SpaceX revealed the in-depth concept video on Tuesday, which was created by computer graphics companies INDG and AltSpace for Delft Hyperloop, the team that’s been developing a virtual model for the transport system at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.

The video uses Amsterdam as an example of a potential underground station connected to a sprawling Hyperloop network of European cities. Delft presents a minimalist interior design, with green and black pods arriving at platforms beneath what looks like a wooden-ribbed ceiling. 

After choosing their destination, passengers check-in before entering their required platform through airport-like gates and down escalators. The platforms would contain digital information boards and a few benches.

Inside the “light and spacious” pods, overhead skylights “simulate the outside environment, making it feel like you’re sitting right outside.” The pods are divided into different sections: “the social section “where you can enjoy your trip with friends and family,” and separate compartments at the far end of the pods “where private meetings can be held during the trip.”

It’s all hypothetical, and we won’t be seeing these pop up anytime soon, but it looks slick.

EU opens Amazon antitrust investigation

The EU’s Competition Commission has opened a formal antitrust investigation into Amazon to investigate whether the company is using sales data to gain an unfair advantage over smaller sellers on the Marketplace platform. The Commission says it will look into Amazon’s agreements with marketplace sellers, as well as how Amazon uses data to choose which retailer to link to using the “Buy Box” on its site.

“E-commerce has boosted retail competition and brought more choice and better prices,” said the EU’s Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager. “We need to ensure that large online platforms don’t eliminate these benefits through anti-competitive behavior. I have therefore decided to take a very close look at Amazon’s business practices and its dual role as marketplace and retailer, to assess its compliance with EU competition rules.”

Responding to the news, Amazon says that it will cooperate fully with the investigation.

Last September, European regulators announced that they were taking a preliminary look at Amazon’s data collection practices. “If you, as Amazon, get the data from the smaller merchants that you host, which can be of course completely legitimate because you can improve your service to these smaller merchants, do you then also use this data to do your own calculations?” Vestager said at the time.

The investigation is the latest, and potentially the last, antitrust action to have been opened by Vestager, who has served as the Competition Commissioner on the European Commission for the past five years. During her tenure, which is due to end in October, Vestager has fined almost all of the major tech giants, including Google, Qualcomm, and Facebook. Apple was also forced to pay back $15.4 billion in taxes, thanks to a ruling by Vestager. So far, Amazon has managed to avoid being fined by EU regulators, but that could all change as a result of this investigation.

What Apple’s products could look like without Jony Ive leading design

It’ll truly be the end of an era when Apple Chief Design Officer Jony Ive walks out of the massive sliding glass doors of Apple Park to design things at his new company, LoveFrom.

Ive and his team of close-knit industrial designers have blessed the world with many iconic products, including the iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch over the last 20 years. 

These are all devices that have changed the world. But in some ways, Ive’s obsession with stripping everything down to its purest form has also been the source of much frustration for users. Instead of products that provide the best form and function, in recent years, Apple products have felt too compromised.

Though many will view Ive’s departure from Apple as a turn for the worse — “The genius of Steve Jobs and Ive will never be matched; Apple is doomed!” — I see his leave as an opportunity for the company to embrace a new chapter of more sensible devices. Devices that are familiar, but better suit the many different kinds of users that have helped grow Apple into one of the most valuable companies in the world.

It’s unlikely Apple without Ive will vomit a dizzying lineup of new devices the same way the company did in the late ’80s to early ’90s under former CEO John Sculley. And I don’t expect Ive’s influence to suddenly disappear overnight. 

However, I strongly feel Apple’s industrial designers are at inflection point where they can step out of Ive’s shadow and improve on existing products by breaking with some of the principles he was so unrelenting on.

Next-gen iPhone

A thicker iPhone with a flush camera sure would be nice.

A thicker iPhone with a flush camera sure would be nice.

Image: Bob Al-greene / mashable

A decade since the iPhone’s introduction, Apple’s most revolutionary product now faces fierce assault from every direction. The iPhone no longer has one main rival (Samsung), but myriad competition, especially from China (Huawei, Xiaomi, OnePlus, Oppo, etc.) 

iPhone sales flatlined as prices became too high, hardware became more than good enough to last beyond two years, and Android phone alternatives have introduced irresistible mobile innovations such as notch- and hole-free displays, in-display fingerprint readers, and cameras capable of shooting ultra-wide photos and stunning night shots.

In comparison, the iPhone — as fantastic as the iPhone XR and XS/XS Max are — feel like they’re falling behind. This year’s new iPhones are expected to keep the same designs but add an ultra-wide camera inside of a big protruding bump.

New software and services, faster performance, and improved cameras are all great features, but consumers want more visible change for the iPhone.

Under Ive, the iPhone went on a diet until it became arguably too thin with the iPhone 6, which culminated in bendgate. Slowly, but surely, the iPhone has thickened with each new model going from the iPhone 6’s 6.9mm profile to 8.3mm on the iPhone XR.

I can’t speak for everyone, but anecdotally, I see more people with iPhone XRs than iPhone XS or XS Max. Not to mention almost everyone puts their iPhones in cases or carries battery packs or cases. This suggests to me people might not mind a thicker phone if the tradeoff’s for, say, a bigger battery or a camera that doesn’t jut out. It would be smart for Apple’s industrial team to take these use cases into consideration for any future iPhones.

“Consumers want more visible change for the iPhone.”

We’ve been hearing for years that the iPhone might switch to USB-C. It hasn’t happened under Ive’s watch. USB-C would mean one less proprietary cable to carry around. While it seems unlikely Apple would sever the healthy revenue it collects from third-party companies that license its Lightning tech, a thicker iPhone — even a millimeter or two — would allow physical room for USB-C to fit. USB-C would also endow the iPhone with iPad Pro-like functionality, like the ability to connect to monitors and USB-C flash drives.

A new smaller iPhone with a notch-free display and in-display Touch ID fingerprint reader could also compete with Android phones with the same features. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claims a 5.4-inch iPhone is reportedly slated for 2020 and a Credit Suisse analyst says Apple’s working on an in-display fingerprint reader, despite insisting Face ID is the better and more natural biometric system for iPhones.

I’d also love a design refresh that mirrors the iPad Pro’s straight edges and throws it back to the boxier iPhone 5/5S/SE days.

Future MacBooks and iMacs

Kill the Touch Bar, add a touchscreen, and bring back a memory card slot, please!

Kill the Touch Bar, add a touchscreen, and bring back a memory card slot, please!

Image: Bob AL-GREENE /  MASHABLE

I’ve outlined before what the death of the 12-inch MacBook could mean for future Apple laptops. Namely, this is Apple’s chance to kill its almost controversial “butterfly keyboard” and switch back to scissor-style keys with more travel. Similarly, Apple can dump the Touch Bar and bring back the row of function keys while still keeping Touch ID inside of the power button like on the MacBook Air

Like the iPhone, I wouldn’t mind if Apple made the MacBook Air and Pro marginally thicker and heavier to add in a touchscreen (gorilla arm is such a myth), higher-resolution webcam with Face ID, a memory card slot, and MagSafe. These features would put MacBooks more on par with Windows-powered alternatives such as the excellent Surface Laptop 2 and Google Pixelbook.

And while Apple’s at it making MacBooks a few hairs thicker, why not make internal components like the storage, RAM, and battery user-replaceable again? Soldering the SSD and RAM is good for making thin machines, but terrible for upgrades, repairs, and adds to e-waste.

The iMac deserves a makeover. It's been seven years since the last redesign.

The iMac deserves a makeover. It’s been seven years since the last redesign.

Image: BOB AL-GREENE / MASHABLE

iMacs could also use a post-Ive revamp beyond a space gray colorway; the current design’s gone virtually unchanged since 2012. As a desktop — a computer that doesn’t move around much (if ever) — Apple has a lot more room to be bolder.

Who is the iMac for? What do people want it to do that it can’t? I imagine creatives would love an iMac that borrows from Microsoft’s Surface Studio 2 and has drafting table-like capabilities. A touchscreen with multi-touch and Apple Pencil support using a tilting stand would be neat. 

Design-wise, I’d love a Retina display that reaches closer to the edges with slimmer bezels like on the upcoming Pro Display XDR and does away with the iMac’s “chin.”

Face ID login, a new Magic Mouse that corrects this horrendous can’t-use-while-charging design, and user-swappable storage and RAM, or even a screen that rotates vertically like the Pro Display XDR would reimagine the iMac as a formidable modern all-in-one computer.

Apple Watch, Apple TV, HomePod, and beyond

There’s not much that needs improving for the Apple Watch. A camera underneath the display like the one Oppo showed off in a phone for FaceTime calls would be killer.

The Apple TV could become the game console it’s always been meant to be with its own Apple-designed gamepad; it makes even more sense with the launch of Apple Arcade this fall. The Apple TV’s Siri Remote could also use tweaking — small changes so that it’s easier to know which side is up or down.

It’s hard to say how Apple could turn around the HomePod’s misfortunes. Maybe a smaller and cheaper version or one with a screen like the Google Nest Hub

The sky really is the limit for the industrial design team Ive leaves behind. I’m not saying they should run wild and pull a Samsung with future iPhones or MacBooks that use unproven technologies like foldable screens or even release the rumored AR glasses. But bumping utility — real practical needs — higher up on the priority list could help ring in a new Apple era that’s less tone deaf.

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