Porsche’s Panamera popular hybrids have battery makers struggling to keep up

Porsche has told Reuters that battery suppliers are struggling to meet the increased demand for the company’s Panamera hybrid sedan.

The Panamera hybrid combines a traditional engine with electrical propulsion, and has seen rapid growth. The company’s output of Panamera hybrids has doubled over the past 12 months. All in all, Porsche expects to produce about 8,000 of the hybrid sedans this year.

Gerd Rupp is head of the Porsche plant in Leipzig, Germany, where the Panameras are produced, and he said the company may face supply issues in the future. Porsche is keeping up with consumer demand, but there are limitations, due to the inability of battery manufacturers to make enough batteries. Rupp did acknowledge that the increased demand took Porsche off-guard as well.

“As a buyer we had originally projected different volumes (of battery systems needed),” Rupp told Reuters. “The effects can be seen in longer delivery times of currently 3-4 months for Panamera hybrid models.”

Since 2015, Porche’s parent company, Volkswagen, has been investing heavily in new automotive technologies, including self-driving cars and electric vehicles. Development of hybrid and electric vehicles in particular have become especially important as the EU is set to impose fines on auto manufacturers that do not improve their emission standards. By way of example, Audi recently announced that it might be facing one billion Euros worth of fines if it fails to meet EU’s emission standards.

Porche, one of Volkswagen’s most profitable brands, is investing about 1 billion euros in electric vehicles, including the Mission-E, its first purely electric car. The company is also considering a battery-only version of its popular Macan SUV.

Despite this increased investment, the one thing may delay the production of the Mission-E and other electric cars are the lack of skilled engineers needed to build them. Both traditional automakers and tech giants such as Google are working to create self-driving cars. In order to address the lack of skilled labor, Rupp says that Porsche has opened a new training center in Leipzig, where it will train current staff members to meet the changing demands of the auto industry.

“It’s becoming increasingly more difficult to find the right experts,” Rupp said. “We cannot completely rely on the open job market.”

Editors’ Recommendations

Bright: All the trailers and commentary for Netflix’s biggest film to date

Streaming on December 22nd

Contributors:

Netflix is about to launch its biggest film to date: Bright. Directed by Suicide Squad’s David Ayer and starring Will Smith and Joel Edgerton, this fantasy adventure is set in a modern-looking world where humans live alongside creatures such as Orcs and Elves live alongside humans.

Will Smith plays a human cop, in the film, while Joel Edgerton plays his orc counterpart. While they’re on the job, they come across an amazing find: a magic wand that grants wishes, a sort of nuclear bomb of this fantasy world. Needless to say, there’s a lot of people who will do anything to get their hands on it.

While the film itself looks like action-packed, blockbuster material, it’s a clear indication that Netflix is setting its sights high in Hollywood. While the streaming service has made a name for itself with shows such as House of Cards and Stranger Things, it has begun wading into the movie market with films like Beasts of No Nation, where it faces competition from theater chains.

Bright begins streaming on December 22nd.

Samsung Galaxy S9 might be announced in February

Samsung Galaxy S8
Samsung Galaxy S8

Image: Lili Sams/Mashable

Ready or not, Samsung’s Galaxy S9 is coming.

The Korean electronics giant’s next flagship Android phone might be announced in February, according to a report from Bloomberg.

There were murmurs that Samsung would switch things up this year and reveal the Galaxy S9 at CES in January, instead of at its own “Unpacked” event a few months later. But it appears that may not happen. Samsung could still unveil another phone — perhaps the long-rumored foldable “Galaxy X” — at CES, though.

The Bloomberg report claims Samsung is expected to unveil two versions of the Galaxy S9 — a regular S9 and larger S9+, which sounds about right considering the company did the same for the last two years running with the S7 and S8. 

The phones will reportedly come with “upgraded camera systems” and could launch as early as March.

Though there haven’t been any substantially damning leaks of the S9, there has been a good amount of smoke recently.

Rumors suggest the new phones will look very similar to the S8 and S8+, so those looking for a complete redesign may be let down. Earlier rumors hinted at the possibility of a screen that stretches to the bottom of the phone, like the iPhone X, but with a narrow bezel on the top for the front-facing camera, IR sensor, iris scanner and other sensors.

Prominent phone leaker and 3D concept artist Benjamin Geskin mocked up what such a phone could look like:

Last month, a 3D CAD file of a device labeled as the Galaxy S9 allegedly leaked online. The image shows a phone with vertically-aligned dual cameras and a fingerprint sensor below them, instead of next to them. Of course, there’s also the possibility it won’t even have a fingerprint sensor.

Other rumored features we’re hearing across the web:

It’s still anyone’s guess as to what the S9 will look like or what features it’ll support. However, we’d bet on a device that’s competitive with the iPhone X. 

It may even cost $1,000. Yeah, it’d be insane, but the iPhone X and Galaxy Note 8 have already proven that a $1,000 phone offers a lot of value. It’s really not as crazy as it sounds, especially if you buy them with an installment plan.

Regardless, get hyped for the Galaxy S9. It’s likely to be the first 2018 flagship that’ll matter.

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Tango vs. ARCore: Which is the future of augmented reality on Android?

Mere weeks after announcing Project Tango was out of beta, Google revealed its software-only augmented reality program, ARCore. Google’s announcement followed the release of Apple’s ARKit, which brought AR to millions of Apple devices via a software update, giving developers plenty of options to run their programs on.

Currently, there are only two devices that utilize Tango: The Lenovo Phab 2 Pro and the Asus Zenfone AR. They are both optimized with extra hardware — such as a barometer, motion-tracking camera, and an infrared depth-sensing camera — which improve the function of various AR applications. ARCore, which will run on many Android phones and doesn’t require specific hardware components, has made these two phones redundant.

arcore

Tango has been around in some capacity or another since 2014, but the number of AR apps on its devices are limited. Both the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro and the Asus Zenfone AR are severely underrepresented in the smartphone industry. ARCore is smart move for Google considering the reach and implications of its competitor’s platform, which is why Google decided to shut down Tango come March 1, 2018.

But how different are the two technologies? Despite its limitations, Tango’s refined hardware makes it faster and more accurate than ARCore. Instead of tracking planes in a video feed like ARCore and ARKit does, Tango uses its hardware to compile a 3D map of a designated area, one that allows you to leave objects in space and return to them later.

While ARCore and ARKit work well on a table and other flat surfaces, Tango is much more successful in mapping larger or irregular shapes, specifically rooms and buildings.

lenovo phab 2 pro review project tango screenshot 0013

But even though Tango is objectively a better system than ARCore, the new augmented reality program will be able to bring AR to more devices. That’s exciting for consumers and developers who are interested in the budding technology, and gives us opportunities to see more content.

Google will likely take what it learned from Tango and use that knowledge to improve ARCore, which is still in beta. Moving forward, however, we might see elements of Tango’s hardware incorporated into devices running ARCore.

David Cogen — a regular contributor here at Digital Trends — runs TheUnlockr, a popular tech blog that focuses on tech news, tips and tricks, and the latest tech. You can also find him on Twitter discussing the latest tech trends.

Editors’ Recommendations

McLaren’s new million-dollar hypercar looks like a giant Matchbox toy

There are things we don’t know about the McLaren Senna, the newest $1 million hypercar to come out of the British marque’s design studio. We don’t have a 0-60 time, or a top speed. And we don’t know exactly when the 500 being made will hit the road. Those details will be shared when the car is shown off in full at next year’s Geneva Motor Show.

What we do know is the Senna looks appropriately wild for a car that will succeed the mega-powerful McLaren P1, the company’s previous hypercar. The Senna’s specs aren’t quite as brawny as the P1’s — 789 horsepower from a 4.0-liter V8 — but the lithe 2,461-pound dry weight makes it sound like this car is going to absolutely fly.

Metaphorically, that is. Thanks to all the wild aerodynamics going on throughout the design of the Senna’s body, this car will be practically glued to the ground. That will make it a fantastic tool for the fantastically wealthy people who want to use on a proper racetrack. For those who buy it just to store or display it, though, those aerodynamics are at least good enough to make the Senna look unlike any other car they might have in their collection — especially from the sides.

The Senna’s hood is the part that’s most recognizably McLaren, but the rest of its body curls and cuts in on itself in new ways, creating fast lanes for air to scream through the car instead of slowing it down. Good luck finding a straight line on this car that’s not one of the ones in the McLaren logo.

Even though there’s purpose behind the Senna’s style, it still looks like a toy come to life. Looking at the scoops and swirls of body work instantly conjures up the metallic smell and cold touch of the many Matchbox cars I had as a kid. It feels like I could just as quickly snatch it up with two fingers and slide it along the ground as I could hop in the driver’s seat and hit the gas.

And yes, gas! Unlike the P1, this new McLaren apparently isn’t a hybrid, which means McLaren will try to wrangle the crown of fastest production car from its own predecessor with an internal combustion engine.

That’s pretty wild considering the P1 took that nebulous title (sort of) from the EP9, an all-electric car from Chinese startup NIO. And many top-tier performance cars these days are hybrids, especially the direct competitors to the P1 like the Ferrari LaFerrari. Even Porsche used hybrid technology to add ludicrous performance to its four-door grocery getter (Dean & DeLuca, of course).

McLaren’s press release for the Senna has knitted through it the kind of macho language you’d expect from someone grunting about an internal combustion engine car in the twilight of 2017. The Senna is an “aggressive, unforgiving machine,” according to the release, with a power to weight ratio that “delivers savage performance” good enough to make it “the most extreme McLaren road car yet.” I think I just heard someone crack open an energy drink.

It’s not that I expect every new car from every manufacturer to be hybrid or all-electric. I’m just saying that’s increasingly been the trend, and it’s one other reason why the Senna stands out. I’d imagine that’s what they were going for, especially considering it was named after F1 legend Ayrton Senna.

Visions of Senna’s unrelenting racing style will likely flash by in the minds of the lucky few people who get to drive McLaren’s new car, especially because there won’t be much to distract them otherwise. The company joyously boasts about how the cockpit is stripped of typical car creature comforts. “Even the gas struts are exposed to save vital grams,” the company writes. There are no buttons or switches on the steering wheel — two adjustment levers and the shifter paddles around the back are the only adornments there.

There’s also no air conditioning. When the driver inevitably reaches to roll down the window, though, they’ll be reaching up, not out. The controls for the window and doors are actually above the driver’s head, along with the engine start button. That’s also where the driver will find the switch to activate “race mode,” which lowers the car into a more track-ready stance.

It’s one of the crazier details of this unhinged new McLaren, and I haven’t even talked about the little windows in each door that let you see all the way through the car. Call it daring, call it stupid — if the Senna was any less of whatever it is, I think I’d actually hate it.

Are the millions of dollars you don’t have searing a hole through your wallet yet? Same. Tough luck, suckers. We have to find something else to dream about buying, because all 500 Sennas have already been sold. Surprise, the rich just got a little faster. The rest of us just get to watch.

Facebook’s new feature will make it easier to hide your posts from your boss

Facebook profiles may soon no longer be a long list of everything you’ve ever shared. Facebook appears to be testing a tool that would allow users to share posts without including them in their profile, sending them to the news feed only.

Facebook hasn’t yet confirmed the test of the feature, but The Next Web’s Matt Navarra recently spotted the option. The option shows up at the top of a new post next to the privacy options as well as the option to add to an album. By selecting “show on profile,” users can choose whether to, like the current option, post to both the news feed and the profile, or to just send the post to the news feed only.

Another variation of the feature uses a pop-up window allowing users to choose to where to share, including the news feed and Stories.

If the tool makes it past testing, the option could give users more control over the look and content of their profile. Friends frequent the news feed to read updates, but visitors on the profile tend to be looking for something more specific, like something that user shared in the past, checking up on an old friend or checking out a potential new hire.

Users could, for example, want to share news stories they are interested in publicly, but may not want a potential new boss or friend to guess their political affiliation from the list of posts they’ve shared. Another option is to put the more important events in the profile, but leave off that photo of what was for lunch.

The test was spotted on Friday, December 15, the same day that Facebook brought the “snooze” tool out of testing. The option allows users to temporarily remove a friend, Page or group from their news feed for 30 days. A number of new tests and features appear to be cleaning up the social network while offering users more options to control what they see — Facebook also recently eliminated that real-time ticker and also adjusted algorithms to make video series that users visit more than once appear higher in the news feed.

Editors’ Recommendations

The best iPhone X car mounts

Consumers have already gotten their hands on Apple’s newest smartphone, the iPhone X. While users are enjoying the top-tier camera and the animated emojis, the entire aftermarket industry is in a frenzied race to launch accessories such as chargers, screen protectors, cases, and car mounts. If you want to keep your hands on the steering wheel, and we strongly suggest you do, here are the best iPhone X car mounts you can buy today.

All Cart Magnetic Car Phone Holder ($11+)

Allcart Magnetic Smartphone Mount

All Cart’s Magnetic Car Phone Holder is one of the more basic units on the market; it certainly won’t break the bank. The manufacturer points out a high-performance magnet ensures the phone doesn’t slip or fall, and the head rotates 360 degrees so you can position your device any way you want it. The driver can mount it vertically to get navigation directions, or the passenger can turn it horizontally to watch a movie on the go. It sticks to the dashboard with an adhesive pad.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

Aedilys Air Vent Mount ($9+)

Aedylis car cradle

The Aedilys Air Vent Mount is another basic unit. It’s on the same level as the All Cart mount but it attaches to an air vent, which means there’s no risk of leaving adhesive marks on your dashboard. Unlike the All Cart it eschews the magnet system for a conventional cradle with rubber claws and a 360-degree rotating head.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

Mate2GO V2.0 Car Mount ($16+)

Mate2Go V2.0 Car Mount

Mate2Go’s V2.0 Car Mount is design to attached to the dashboard (or the top of the instrument cluster) and display the phone horizontally. It’s a real boon for motorists who regularly use apps like Android Auto, Waze, or even the Uber Driver application on the road. It’s easy to install, according to the manufacturer, and it comes with a 12-month warranty.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

Ehpow Fast Wireless Charger ($26+)

Ehpow Wireless Car charger

The Ehpow Fast Wireless Charger is one of the most versatile mounts currently on the market. It attaches to your car via either a suction cup you place on the windshield or plastic claws that grab one of the air vents. The head rotates 360 degrees so users can move the phone when needed, and a clever linkage design lets them remove it from the mount with just one hand. The phone rests on a wireless charging pad that draws electricity from a car’s USB port.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

More&Better Cell Phone Holder ($47+)

MoreAndBetter iPhone X charger

More&Better’s car mount is one of the more expensive units on the market, but it’s one that lets you take full advantage of the iPhone X’s wireless charging capacity. It’s essentially a wireless charging pad with a one-touch lock and release function and anti-scratch surface to ensure the back of your X looks new for as long as possible. The device attaches to the car’s air vent, which ensures the phone isn’t directly in the driver’s line of sight, and it plugs into the car’s USB port. And while it’s not cheap, it comes with a one-year warranty.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

Bestfy 3-In-1 Cigarette Lighter Car Mount ($13+)

Bestfy 3-in-1 mount

Smoking isn’t great for you, not to mention it’s becoming increasingly expensive, so why not put your cigarette lighter to a better use? Bestfy’s 3-in-1 charger mounts directly into a car’s cigarette lighter to place the phone within the driver’s line of sight. It takes up more space in the cabin than dashboard-, windshield-, or air vent-mounted holders but it’s a good option if, for any reason, none of those fit your needs. The part you insert in the cigarette lighter features a pair of built-in USB ports so you can keep your iPhone — or any other device you need on-the-go — topped up.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

IKOPO Universal CD Slot Magnetic Mount ($15+)

Ipoko CD player mount

When was the last time you used your car’s CD player? If you can’t remember, and if you rely on your phone to listen to music, consider getting IKOPO’s Universal CD Slot Magnetic Mount. Like its name implies it’s a magnetic mount that fits into the factory-equipped CD player. Silicone grips ensure the mount doesn’t damage the CD player in any way, lest you feel nostalgic and dust off your copy of Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

iOttie Easy One Touch 3 ($25+)

iOttie Car Phone Mount

The iOttie Easy One Touch 3 is capable of sticking to either your car’s dashboard or windshield, and features an arm that can extend up to 5 inches, as well as an adjustable base that can be moved up, down, left, and right, in order to make it as simple as possible for people to see and interact with their iPhone while driving. You can have the phone close to you if you need it, or keep it out of sight when you’re using Apple CarPlay.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

IPOW Silicone Pad Dash Mat ($13+)

IPOW Silicone Dash Pad

IPOW’s car mount offering may be the most simplistic one on our list. It simply sits on the dashboard, and relies on a silicone rubber mat to keep it in place. As far as adjustments go, it comes with two pairs of rubber holders that stick directly into the rubber base, allowing it to accommodate an iPhone X even without removing the case. It’s easy to remove so you can take the mat with you when you get to your destination and use it to hold up your phone on your desk.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

Voguetech Cell Phone Holder ($13+)

best iphone x car mounts voguetech cell phone holder thumb

Voguetech’s landscape-oriented holder opens and closes like a clam, and it can be positioned on any flat surface in your car. Depending on the make and model you drive, you can also install it in the middle of your dashboard or on either side of it, which is handy if your passenger wants to watch Netflix on a long road trip. It’s not an adjustable mount, but you can tilt it to ensure it’s right in the viewer’s field of vision. Users additionally note that they’re able to move it around without damaging their dashboard.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

Editors’ Recommendations

Tesla is prohibiting commercial drivers from using its Supercharger stations

If you use your Tesla for your job, you won’t be able to use the company’s Supercharger stations anymore. The company recently released a new policy called Supercharger Fair Use, which prohibits commercial drivers from using the red-and-white charging ports.

Tesla has been working to expand its network of charging stations, announcing in April that it hoped to have more than 10,000 Supercharger stations by the end of 2017. The expansion is needed to alleviate heavy traffic at the stations, which have become a congestion point for drivers. Last year, the company announced fees for charging, and said that it will begin charging drivers an additional fee if they leave their cars at the stations after they’ve finished charging.

Tesla says that the stations are intended for drivers who don’t have ready options for charging at home or at work, and that when they’re not used for this purpose, “it negatively impacts the availability of Supercharging services for others.” Thus, the new policy says that drivers who are using their vehicles as a taxi, for ridesharing, commercial delivery or transportation, governmental purposes, or other commercial ventures aren’t permitted to use the free stations.

The company tracks usage and driver behavior, and if they find that someone isn’t complying with the policy, they might be asked to stop, and simply limit or block one’s vehicle from the stations in certain instances. The policy went into effect on Friday, December 15th, 2017.

A Tesla spokesperson said that the company does “encourage the use of Teslas for commercial purposes,” and that they will work with drivers to find other places to charge their vehicles. The policy carve out an exception, saying that some stations might be excluded, depending on local circumstances.

Let’s talk about Star Wars: The Last Jedi’s most divisive part: porgs

Porgs. When fans spotted the diminutive creatures of Star Wars: The Last Jedi in the first behind-the-scenes reel, they were immediately divided. Some fell utterly in love with them, creating fan art, buttons, and shirts right off the bat, while others dismissed them as a cheap marketing gimmick for the inevitable batch of toys that would hit stores.

The creatures’ next appearance in the film’s second trailer showed off one squawking alongside Chewbacca on the Millennium Falcon, which only further entrenched both sides of the love-them-or-hate-them argument. LucasFilm seems to have realized the marketing potential that the little guys had: they released a bunch of toys for Force Friday II in September, Target raffled off giant plush versions to lucky customers who showed up at the store at midnight, and they appeared in a bunch of other TV spots in the leadup to the film

But now that we’ve watched The Last Jedi, we’ve finally seen just what role they play in the film. We sat down to figure out the film’s most essential question: are they worth the hype? (Some spoilers for The Last Jedi ahead)

Thuy: Can I say that the porgs were super cute and my favorite new characters? I already have a stuffed one at home.

Tasha: Sure, as long as I get to say I hated them. They have no purpose in the story but to sell porg merch. They’re basically an ad for Star Wars toys. They’re what the merchandising industry calls “toyetic” — something made to be a mass-consumable product first, and a character later. At least they aren’t a dominant part of the film, but I don’t get the affection people have for them at all. A colleague of mine even said they’re meant to replace Han Solo in this filmthey’re comic relief and they highlight Chewbacca, who’d otherwise barely be in the film — and that just seems like blasphemy. How can you see a hamster-eyed penguin as a replacement for Han Solo?

Andrew: One of the interesting things I learned about their inclusion in the film is that they were there to correct an annoying problem: puffins that live on the island of Skellig Michael. They were apparently everywhere on the island during filming, and the production team didn’t want to digitally remove them from the film, so they came up with a real-world stand in.

I think that helps to explain a couple of things about their presence: they’re fixing a practical problem, but presented a useful opportunity for something cute and toy-driven. Star Wars has always had some component that feels designed exclusively for toy sales, whether it’s the endless variants of Clone Troopers, droids, or ships that change from film to film. I see porgs as part of that. They don’t really do much for the story, but they add a bit of local … flavor… to the world as a large.

Tasha: Remember when George Lucas went back and digitally added womp rats hopping (or maybe womping) around Mos Eisley in Star Wars: A New Hope? People hated that, even though it was something else that just added a bit of local flavor to the world, and even though it was a relatively minor change. Here, it feels to me like the womp rats have taken over.

Andrew: Yeah, but these guys are cuter than rats, womp or otherwise.

Chaim: Sounds like you’d be interested in joining Chewie for some roast porg there, Tasha. I will agree that they’re in the film more for hype than to actually serve a purpose, but they’re pretty darn cute.

I would probably eat one anyway, though.

Thuy: But they’re sweet and fluffy!

Tasha: You know what else is sweet and fluffy? Waffles. And no one complains about people wanting to eat them.

Bryan: I’m hoping to start a string of Kentucky Fried Porg restaurants — who’s with me?

Tasha: I’m not only with you, I’m designing the restaurants like seafood restaurants, so there’s a tank of live porgs at the front of the house. They can give patrons puppy-eyes as they file in and take their seats. Everybody gets to select their own porg to eat out of the tank. Chewbacca will be avenged.

Andrew: This reminds me a bit of the Popplers from Futurama.

Bryan: Hmmm… maybe it should be a Kentucky Fried Porg N’ Waffles restaurant.

Andrew: I wouldn’t go to this restaurant. I found them utterly delightful in the film — they are really adorable, and even though they didn’t really serve a useful function in the story, I didn’t mind their presence. I might be predisposed to this: my son was extremely delighted with the porg in the film’s trailer and the short cartoons Lucasfilm released, and I ended up picking up a stuffed one for him earlier this fall. It’s become one of his favorite toys.

Bryan: That actually gets to my overall feelings with porgs, though. I think there’s a large number of people that love porgs not because the movie made them fall in love with the little critters, but because the marketing ahead of the movie made them fall in love with them. There’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself. I’m all for toys, tie-ins, and spending all kinds of money on Star Wars-related merch. (Don’t get me started on my lightsaber collection.) But liking a character based on the movie alone is a different matter. The crystal foxes are almost equally superfluous, but they serve an important story function in that they let the Resistance figure out how to escape from the base at the end of the film. Porgs are cute, but they’re ultimately just ornamentation.

Andrew: I agree, but in this case, if you’ve seen the trailers, you’ve pretty much seen the extent of their presence in the film — with one notable exception — and I’m guessing that even if they hadn’t been featured in the marketing, I suspect that people would still fall in love with them along similar lines. They’ll be compared to Return of the Jedi’s Ewoks, but they certainly had less function in the film than Endor’s natives.

Tasha: I don’t want to be too much of a curmudgeon about something that’s been inserted into the film for kids, and something kids actively enjoy. There’s just too much porg in the movie for me, for something with no story function. If they were like R2-D2 and BB-8 — cute and toy-friendly and kid-attracting, but fundamental to the narrative — I’d be fine with them. If they were like Salacious B. Crumb — weird and off-putting, but more a bit of oddball side business than the center of attention — I’d be fine with that, too. I just object to stopping the story flat for porg comedy business.

Andrew: One thing that I noticed in the film was that they were practical effects, but I found their movements a bit stiff and unreal, which was jarring. It threw me a bit. I felt like it would have been a bit better done like the crystal foxes, which were practically designed an animated, but scanned and rendered for the film.

Andru: I really loved that they were puppets and not computer graphics! It made it feel more like Star Wars. I don’t care if it looked less realistic. Maybe creatures just look more like Etsy crafts in a galaxy far far away.

Tasha: I’m also fine with them being physical, tangible objects. I’m always a fan of Star Wars getting back to its roots with practical effects. But it feels like the central debate here is one that’s plagued nerd culture for decades: the question of how much this kind of adventure story belongs to adults, and how much it belongs to kids. It’s at the heart of every debate over whether Batman should be grim and gritty and willing to kill people, or colorful and campy and willing to dance. It’s at the heart of the endless fight between fans who hate the prequel movies, and fans who grew up on them and embrace them. The porg face-off is fundamentally about whether comic relief and cuteness belong in Star Wars, or whether the series should belong more exclusively to the serious, straight-faced likes of Darth Vader.

Bryan: I’d break with you there slightly, Tasha. I’d paint this as a matter of tone. Star Wars has always had humor, starting with the (unintentionally?) hilarious whining of Luke wanting to go to Tosche Station to pick up power converters, or Leia’s sarcastic banter on the Death Star. But as you said, porgs — like Ewoks and Jar-Jar before them — often feel like they’re aiming for younger audiences, which can undercut the intended gravitas of other moments. The line’s not between funny and serious; it’s between silly and sarcastic. My personal favorite Star Wars gag is in The Empire Strikes Back, when Vader is talking to holograms of three of his lieutenants. An asteroid hits one of the ships, and the man disappears with an exaggerated wave of his hands. See, the Dark Side can be funny!

Tasha: I always felt the same way about Darth Vader prodding at Obi-Wan’s empty robe with his foot in A New Hope, after killing him. His helmet isn’t capable of expression, but I always felt a clear “Buh?!?” coming off him in that moment that seemed darkly comedic, yet entirely in keeping with the film. And in my review, I brought up how Star Wars has its outright funny moments, like Han Solo’s “We’re fine, how are you?” bit on the intercom. I’m on board with you about the difference between silliness (largely for kids) and sarcasm (mostly for older audiences). For me, at least, porgs are just silly.

But what if porgs aren’t as cute and goofy as we believe? What if we’ve been misreading them all along? The porgs’ biggest scene in The Last Jedi comes when Chewbacca is just about to chomp down on a roast porg, and a crowd of them gather around to stare at him with big sad goony-eyes. It’s natural to interpret that as them being forlorn and a little judgey about his dietary choices. But they seem to just be animals, and animals are traditionally more food-motivated than sympathy-motivated.

What if all those cute little porgs are giving Chewbacca puppy-eyes the same way a dog will sit beseechingly next to someone eating a big, sloppy, delicious-looking sandwich?

What if they’re just begging for scraps?

Bryan:

I, um…. Hrm.

So, one of the things that did stand out to me during the movie was why the porgs were totally cool hanging with Chewie in the Falcon after he’d cooked up a couple of their brothers. That doesn’t really track. But what does track is an off-screen scene in which Chewie shares the roast porg, bonds with the rest of the gang, and they all head out together for more culinary adventures.

Search your feelings, you know it to be true.

The 12 best apps of 2017

Just when you thought apps had gotten boring and derivative, developers have leveraged new technologies to breathe new life into mobile experiences. From games we couldn’t put down to powerful camera apps to augmented reality finally taking off, those little squares with the rounded corners on our home screens continued to surprise and delight us.

Whether it was record-breaking downloads or those hidden gems that just made our lives easier, these are the apps we loved most in 2017.

1. Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp

Nintendo delighted fans this year with another heavy dose of nostalgia in the form of Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. The long-awaited mobile installment in the Animal Crossing series, the game proved once again Nintendo can still capture our imaginations with old favorites.

iOS

2. Astro 

An email app with a chabot built-in. Astro takes a new approach to helping you stay on top of your inbox. The app has all the organizational features you’d expect from an email client: multiple inboxes, gesture-based controls, message scheduling, and the ability to “snooze” emails for later. What makes Astro stand out, though, is the built-in assistant that learns your habits and can help remind you to stay on top of your messages. Send it a few commands and it can unsubscribe you from annoying newsletters, remind you to get back to people, and manage your VIP list.

iOS, Android

3. Ballz

One of those frustratingly addicting games that you just can’t quite seem to put down, Ballz went viral even beyond Ketchapp’s usually reliable hit-making abilities. The game is simple — use your balls to hit the bricks — and yet it requires just enough strategy that it’s near impossible to put down. No wonder it spent weeks and weeks at the top of the App Store and Google Play, earning a near-perfect 4.5-star rating. 

iOS, Android

4. Clips

Something of a mix between iMovie and Snapchat, Clips is a new kind of video app for Apple. The app, which lets you create movies out of short clips, has a bit of everything: augmented reality effects, stylized filters, AI-powered automated captions, and, yes, lots of emoji. 

iOS

5. Datally

Worrying about how much mobile date you’re using seems like one of those problems we should be able to easily avoid by now, but too often that’s just not the case. And, depending on where you live, cellular data can quickly add up to a costly investment. That’s why Google’s data-saving app Datally is so dang useful. The app not only breaks down exactly how you’re using your data; it helps you prevent apps from accessing it when you don’t want them to. Meaning: No more surprise overages.

Android

6. Google Assistant

Yes, it was still a bit rough around the edges when it first launched, but the standalone Google Assistant app is damn useful, especially if you don’t already have a Pixel phone. Not only can the app help with standard queries you’d typically turn to Google searches for, it can tell you about what’s on your calendar, send messages, and control your music. 

iOS, Android

7. Halide

Most camera apps aren’t worth using simply because it’s just so much easier to stick with iOS’s default camera. Halide is an exception worth making, though. The app gives you full manual control over exposure, focus, ISO, white balance, and shutter speed with easy gesture-based controls that are meant to emulate old-school film cameras. 

iOS

8. HQ

Leave it to the founders of Vine (RIP) to come up with a trivia app that’s so much more than just another quiz game. Combining live video, cash prizes, and a charismatic host, HQ has taken the App Store by storm — inspiring hundreds of thousands of players to tune in and answer trivia questions at the same time each day. Yes, it still has some fail whale-like technical issues, and yes, some onlookers insist it’s all just a fad. But it’s also just incredibly fun — and remains one of the breakout games of the year.

iOS

9. Ikea Place

Augmented reality had a moment in 2017. Apple, Google, Facebook, and Snapchat all launched new platforms showcasing the tech. But even still, so much of AR is just plain gimmicky (looking at you, dancing hotdog). So it was even more surprising that one of the breakout AR apps of the year came not from a tech giant but from Ikea. The furniture company’s AR app, which lets you preview how certain pieces of furniture will look in your home, isn’t just clever — it’s actually useful. 

iOS

10. Super Mario Run

Okay, technically it launched at the end of 2016. But, considering the app helped propel Apple to its single biggest day of App Store sales at the start of the year, and later went on to be one of the most popular apps of the year, it’s safe to say 2017 was the year of Super Mario Run. Not only that, but coming on the heels of Pokémon Go, it further cemented Nintendo’s status as a (finally!) serious player in the mobile space.

iOS, Android

11. tbh

No matter how many people try and ultimately fail, it seems there will always be an appetite for services that gives us an unfiltered window into what our friends really think about us. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that tbh, an anonymous quiz app for teens, was almost instantly successful. But thanks to an innovative approach that focused on positivity, its developers proved that anonymity can be used as a force for good. It was so successful, in fact, Facebook snapped it up as part of its ongoing bid to win over younger teens.

iOS

12. Yarn

Part of a new breed of reading apps that are reinventing how young people read, Yarn quickly became one of the most popular apps in an emerging category known as “chat fiction.” The apps, which present stories as if they were SMS exchanges, have proved not only to be incredibly sticky, but extremely profitable. Yarn stands out because it mixes photos and videos into its interactive stories, making them all the more compelling.

iOS, Android

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