Huawei Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro are here — with some strange differences

Why it matters to you

The Huawei Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro are finally here, and they’re the best phones Huawei has built to date.

We’ve seen a few awesome flagship smartphones in recent weeks — including the Google Pixel 2 XL and the Apple iPhone 8 — but Huawei isn’t taking the competition lightly. The Chinese company has finally unveiled its successors to last year’s Mate 9: The Huawei Mate 10 and Huawei Mate 10 Pro.

Both feature a beautifully large edge-to-edge display that could go toe-to-toe against the Samsung Galaxy S8, and they pack a Huawei-built processor that might give the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 a run for its money. Perhaps a little surprising, however, is how the phones are fairly different. The Mate 10 Pro is not just a larger version of the standard Mate 10. Here’s a rundown of the two phones, and what they have to offer. For more reading, check out our Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro hands-on review.

Huawei Mate 10 Pro

We’re starting with the Mate 10 Pro because it’s the only one of the two you’ll be able to purchase in the United States. This 6-inch AMOLED smartphone has skimpier edges around the screen than the regular Mate 10, and that’s largely because the fingerprint sensor sits on the back. The size allows for an 18:9 aspect ratio, with a surprisingly low 2160 x 1080-pixel resolution. At this size, most manufacturers offer a resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels, and it’s unclear why Huawei has gone with something lower.

The rear is covered with glass, and above the fingerprint sensor sits a dual camera set up. One is a 20-megapixel monochrome camera, while the other is a 12-megapixel RGB camera with optical image stabilization. The LG V30 is the first smartphone with a f/1.6 aperture, but the Huawei Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro are the first to use a f/1.6 aperture in both rear cameras. It allows the cameras to take in more light, so it should help in low-light environments. Like most smartphones with a dual-camera setup, there’s a portrait mode and a 2x hybrid zoom feature for close ups.

The Mate 10 Pro is powered by Huawei’s latest and greatest chip, the Kirin 970, which also offers a so-called “Neural Processing Unit,” or a chip dedicated to processing neural networks. It’s coupled with 6GB of RAM, which should help with multitasking by keeping apps in memory. The NPU is the highlight here, as Huawei said it dramatically improves the speed of artificially intelligent queries, and it can offer up a smarter software experience. For example, if you’re watching a movie or playing a game and you get a notification, the phone will suggest split-screen mode so you don’t have to stop what you’re doing. If it detects you’re in a low-light setting, it will suggest turning on eye-comfort mode.

But one of the cooler implementations is with the camera, as the NPU allows the Mate 10’s camera to recognize objects in real time. This allows the camera to tune photos to certain presets. For example, if it recognizes you’re taking a food photo, it will try to boost the saturation of the food to make it look more appealing.

The Mate 10 Pro comes with 128GB of internal storage and no MicroSD card slot. Unlike the standard Mate 10, the Pro offers an IP67 water-resistant rating. That means you can take it underwater up to 1.5 meters for 30 minutes. Sadly, there’s no headphone jack — for no specified reason — but on the bottom you’ll find a USB Type-C charging port. A USB Type-C to 3.5-mm headphone jack dongle will be included in the box if you want to use your wired headphones.

Huawei Mate 10

The regular Mate 10 also features skinny edges around the screen, but the bezels are slightly larger than the Mate 10 Pro. One reason is because the fingerprint sensor is on the front of the phone, unlike the rear sensor on the Pro. On the back, the phone offers the same vertically aligned dual-lens camera as the Mate 10 Pro, which was built in collaboration with Leica. The regular Mate 10 has the same all-glass design, but you may be happy to hear that there is a headphone jack on the top.

Unlike the Pro, there’s also a MicroSD card slot, though you get less internal storage — 64GB. The LCD display, however, offers a higher 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution despite a smaller 5.9-inch screen (16:9). The camera and the rest of the internals are the same, except instead of 6GB of RAM, the Mate 10 has 4GB.

You’ll find the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro running Android 8.0 Oreo with Huawei’s EMUI 8. They each also have a huge 4,000mAh battery and can charge back up fast thanks to Huawei’s SuperCharge technology. While the Mate 10 has a headphone jack, Mate 10 Pro owners may be disappointed about the option to use Bluetooth 4.2 rather than the newer Bluetooth 5 technology, which offers improved range and faster data transfer speeds.

Desktop mode

With a USB Type-C-to-HDMI dongle, you’ll be able to plug the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro into an TV or monitor to use the phone in desktop mode. You can control the external display with the phone, or with a keyboard and mouse if they’re connected. You can continue using the phone separately while outputting to the TV. This puts the phones in serious competition with Samsung, which offers a desktop mode only if you purchase the Samsung DeX Station — you can’t use the Galaxy S8 or Note 8 when it’s in this docked mode.

Pricing and availability

The Mate 10 Pro will be available in the U.S. in mid-November along with more than 24 countries such as France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Poland, Thailand, and the United Kingdom. It will cost 800 euros (about $945), though U.S. pricing may be different. The Porsche Design Mate 10 will also arrive in mid-November, but at an absurdly high 1,395 euros (about $1,647). It will likely not be available in the U.S.

The Mate 10 won’t be coming to the U.S., but it will cost 700 euros (about $827), and it will be available starting late October in countries including Mexico, Spain, and the United Arab Emirates.

Huawei Mate 10 Lite?

While Huawei has not officially spoken of a Mate 10 Lite, rumors about one have been circulating for some time now. Most recently, known leaker Evan Blass tweeted an image of what’s purported to be the Mate 10 Lite, and it has a similar design to the Mate 10 Pro. We’ll update this article as we hear more about the phone.

Update: Added official details of the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro.

Police warn people on Facebook not to fly their drones near wildfires

An airplane drops fire retardant over a California wildfire.
An airplane drops fire retardant over a California wildfire.

Image: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A drone flying near a wildfire in Northern California forced helicopters to stay grounded — and the California High Patrol (CHP) was not happy about it. 

On Sunday, it posted an all-uppercase warning to the public on Facebook: “FIRE FIGHTING PLANES CANNOT FLY IF YOUR DRONE IS IN THE AIR.”

Police found and cited a 24-year-old man for flying the drone, according to The Mercury News

The pilot had been flying the drone in the vicinity of Petaluma Municipal Airport, forcing air traffic controllers to ground all craft until the drone no longer posed a danger to helicopter blades and engines. 

“They shouldn’t be flying over any of the affected areas — notably airports,” CHP officer Jonathan Sloat told Mashable in a phone interview.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) made it illegal for drones to interfere with firefighting operations anywhere in the country — whether intentional or not. 

These wildfires have been the deadliest in California’s history, killing at least 40 people, destroying over 5,000 buildings, and causing some 100,000 people to flee the rapidly moving flames. There are 11,000 firefighters battling the blaze, and they need the assistance of planes and helicopters to drop massive loads of fire retardant and survey the fire’s progress.

The CHP also warns that drones shouldn’t fly over neighborhoods have been completely burned through, leaving only empty, post-apocalyptic lots. 

“We don’t want them flying over those areas either,” said Sloat. There are still many aircraft — from the CHP, news stations, and local power utility — flying around the burned, ash-strewn areas, and authorities fear a collision with a plane or helicopter engine.  

Flying drones around Napa and Sonoma County wine country right now might be an exceptionally poor idea, but drones interfering with firefighting aircraft is nothing new. In 2016 alone, the Department of the Interior reported 42 instances of drones interfering with firefighting operations.  

If you’re in Northern California, please put the drones away. Firefighters have enough to worry about. 

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Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs. Huawei Mate 10 Pro: Which phablet reigns supreme?

Huawei, the world’s second-largest smartphone maker, turned heads last year with the top-end Mate 9. But it has outdone itself with the Mate 10 Pro, the undisputed flagship of the China-based company’s Mate 10 armada. It has an edge-to-edge screen, Huawei’s powerful new Kirin 970 processor, dual cameras, and AI-powered software that blows away much of the competition.

But the Mate 10 Pro isn’t the only flagship on the market. It’s competing with Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8, a stylus-touting, Bixby-sporting smartphone with a curved screen and support for Qi wireless charging.

So in the end, which high-end handset comes out on top? Here’s how the Huawei Mate 10 Pro and Galaxy Note 8 compare.

Huawei Mate 10 Pro

Huawei Mate 10 Pro

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Apple iPhone X vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Size 154.2 x 74.5 x 7.9 mm (6.07 x 2.93 x 0.31 inches) 162.5 × 74.8 × 8.6 mm (6.40 × 2.95 × 0.34 inches)
Weight 178 grams (6.28 ounces) 195 grams (6.88 ounces)
Screen 6-inch OLED 6.3-inch Super AMOLED
Resolution 2160 x 1080 (402 ppi) 2960 × 1440 (522 ppi)
OS Android 8.0 Oreo Android 7.1.1 Nougat
Storage 64GB, 128GB 64GB (U.S.) 128, 256GB (International)
MicroSD card slot Yes Yes
NFC support Yes Yes
Processor Huawei Kirin 970 Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (U.S.), Samsung Exynos 8895 (International)
RAM 4GB/6GB 6GB
Connectivity LTE (Cat 18), GSM, CDMA, HSPA, EVDO, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi LTE, GSM, CDMA, HSPA, EVDO, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
Camera Dual 20-megapixel monochrome and 12-megapixel RGB rear, 8-megapixel front Dual 12-megapixel rear, 8-megapixel front
Video Up to 4K at 30 fps Up to 4K at 30 fps, 720p at 240 fps
Bluetooth Yes, version 4.2 Yes, version 5.0
Fingerprint sensor Yes Yes
Other sensors Accelerometer, barometer, gyro, geomagnetic, proximity Accelerometer, barometer, gyro, geomagnetic, heart rate, proximity, iris, pressure
Water resistant Yes, IP67 rated Yes, IP68 rated
Battery 4,000mAh

Fast charging

3,300mAh

22 hours of talk time, 13 hours of internet, 16 hours of video playback, and up to 74 hours of audio playback

Fast charging, wireless charging (Qi standard)

Charging port USB-C USB-C
Marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Colors Midnight Blue, Titanium Gray, Mocha Brown, Pink Gold Midnight Black, Orchid Gray, Maple Gold, Deep Sea Blue
Availability November AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, Unlocked
Price Around $945 $930
DT review Hands-on 4 out of 5 stars

Specs

The Mate 10 Pro and Galaxy Note 8 don’t look much alike on the outside, and it’s pretty much the same story under the hood.

Huawei’s flagship has the Kirin 970, the company’s all-new homegrown system-on-chip, inside. It’s 50 percent more energy-efficient than the Kirin 960 and crunches numbers 25 percent faster, Huawei says, though it remains to be seen how that performance translates to the real world.

The Note 8, on the other hand, packs Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 system-on-chip, the same chip in flagships like the LG V30 and HTC U11.

So how do the two CPUs measure up? Benchmarks are hard to come by, but they don’t seem all that different on paper. Both the Kirin and Snapdragon have eight cores, four that handle background tasks and four that spin up for processor-intensive apps. In the Mate 10 Pro and Galaxy Note 8, both are paired with 6GB of RAM, though the 64GB Mate 10 Pro ships with 4GB.

But the Kirin 970 has a few key advantages over Qualcomm’s silicon. A dedicated neural processing unit (NPU) accelerates AI applications up to 2.6 times faster than Huawei’s last-gen chip, and integrated support for Cat. 18 LTE means the Kirin can download at speeds of up to 1.2Gbps. (The Snapdragon 835 tops out at Cat. 16 and 1Gbps). It’s also the world’s first chip to support dual 4G SIM support and dual VoLTE connections, Huawei says.

While the Mate 10 Pro might have a better processor, it falls short in other areas. Unlike the Galaxy Note 8, which is available in 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB models (all with MicroSD card readers), the Mate 10 Pro comes in nonexpandable 64GB and 128GB sizes. The Mate 10 Pro doesn’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack — you’re stuck with a USB-C-to-3.5mm adapter if your headphones don’t have a digital plug. Unfortunately, the Mate 10 Pro supports an older version of Bluetooth, version 4.2, compared to the Note 8’s faster (2x), longer-range (4x) Bluetooth 5.0.

So which phone wins the specs battle? It’s a close call, but the Note 8 comes out slightly ahead. It might not have the Mate 10 Pro’s AI chip or superior download speeds, but it has more storage options, a headphone jack, and the newer, faster version of Bluetooth.

Winner: Galaxy Note 8

Design and display

mate 10 pro

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Aesthetically, the Mate 10 Pro and the Note 8 don’t share much in common.

The Mate 10 Pro’s all-glass front panel is dominated by an edge-to-edge FullView screen with narrow top, bottom, and side bezels. It’s 6 inches in length and 2160 x 1080 pixels in resolution (FHD), and it’s OLED, which means it can produce deeper blacks and brighter colors than most.

It’s a bare bones design besides. Above the screen is an earpiece and a front camera, and there’s nothing on the Mate 10 Pro’s curved silver sides save a power button, a volume rocker, a dual SIM card slot, and a USB-C port.

The Mate 10 Pro’s minimalism stands in contrast to the Note 8’s curves. Samsung’s flagship has a 6.3-inch 2960 x 1440-pixel AMOLED screen that’s similarly edge-to-edge, but sloped on either side. It, like the Mate 10 Pro’s screen, is HDR-compatible (high dynamic range), meaning it can output a truer-to-life color gamut and higher contrast in supported apps like YouTube and Netflix,

The Note 8’s top and bottom bezels are just as narrow as the Mate 10 Pro’s, and like the Mate 10 Pro, the Note 8 keeps inputs simple with a power button, volume rocker, and USB-C connector. One notable difference is the Bixby button, which launches Samsung’s digital assistant.

Around back, the Note 8 squeezes two camera sensors, a camera flash, and a fingerprint reader into a horizontal module near the phone’s top. We’re not fans of the Note 8’s sensor placement, which makes it both difficult to reach and easy to smudge. The rear cover’s reflective glass also tends to be a bit of a fingerprint magnet.

The Mate 10 Pro’s rear, in contrast, has a gorgeous two-color finish. A reflective band near the top — a stylistic carryover from the Mate 9 Porsche Design — highlights the dual camera module, which is arranged in a cross-shaped pattern. There’s a flash on the right, a laser autofocus module, and a fingerprint sensor in the middle.

The two phones are pretty evenly matched when it comes to durability. The Note 8 is IP68 rated to withstand 5 feet of water for 30 minutes, and the Mate 10 Pro is IP67, which means it can survive 3.5 feet of water for the same length of time.

There’s no question about it: Both the Mate 10 Pro and Note 8 have durable designs that stand out in a crowded field. That said, the Note 8 has more to recommend it (despite its plainer rear). A higher-resolution screen, superior waterproofing, and a curved front panel that’s as functional as it is visually stunning are enough to win the Note 8 the design round.

Overall: Galaxy Note 8

Camera

mate 10 pro

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Mate 10 Pro and Note 8’s rear cameras both have dual sensors, but that’s about all they share in common.

Huawei partnered with Leica to co-engineer the Mate 10 Pro’s rear snapper. It consists of an optically stabilized 12-megapixel RGB sensor and a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor, both of which have SUMMILUX-H lenses and a f/1.6 aperture — the world’s largest, according to Huawei. There’s a dual ISP and laser autofocus on-board, plus software that takes full advantage of the Mate 10 Pro’s hardware. An iPhone 7 Plus-like Portrait Mode filter generates a bokeh effect by combining the two sensors’ imaging data, and a monochrome mode snaps a black-and-white picture using the Mate 10 Pro’s 20-megapixel sensor.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Thanks to the Mate 10 Pro’s Kirin 970 chip, the camera’s imbued with AI smarts. New Real-Time Scene and Object Recognition help it understand what’s in front of it and adjust camera settings accordingly. AI Motion Detection enhances the sharpness of images, and photo-taking apps that tap into the NPU benefit from accelerated image processing. (Huawei says it can process 2,000 images per second.)

The Galaxy Note 8’s rear camera, which comprises an f/1.7-aperture wide-angle lens and an f/2.4-aperture telephoto lens (both 12-megapixels and optically stabilized), works a little differently. There’s a monochrome mode, but it’s software-based — the Note 8’s sensors are both RGB. The Note 8’s bokeh filter, Live Focus, lets you adjust the focus before or after you snap a pic. And Samsung’s Dual Shot taps the phone’s wide-angle lens to capture a close-up and a wide-angle shot simultaneously.

Despite the differences in picture-taking capabilities, it’s an even playing field between the Mate 10 Pro and Note 8 when it comes to selfies and videos. Both can shoot in 4K at 30 frames per second, and both have 8-megapixel front cameras.

If we had to choose an overall winner between them, though, it’d be the Mate 10 Pro. Its rear camera’s incredibly low aperture should translate to great low-light performance, and its true monochrome camera has no equal on the Note 8. To be fair, the Note 8’s dual optical image stabilization might result in smoother shots, but it’s a minor price to pay for the Mate 10 Pro’s AI photography smarts.

Winner: Mate 10 Pro

Battery life and charging

mate 10 pro

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Both the Note 8 and Mate 10 Pro have big batteries, but the Mate 10 Pro’s is bigger.

The Huawei’s flagship has a 4,000mAh battery as opposed to the Note 8’s 3,300mAh battery, and while 700mAh might not sound like a lot, the Note 8’s higher-resolution screen puts it at a disadvantage. The Note 8 lasts about a day on a charge compared to the Mate 10 Pro, which Huawei claims can last two full days.

Both phones charge quickly. The Mate 10 Pro supports Huawei’s SuperCharge 4.5V/5A spec, which juices the battery up to 58 percent after just 30 minutes of charging. It’s a bit quicker than the Note 8’s Adaptive Fast Charging technology, which takes about an hour to fully recharge the battery.

Another notch in the Mate 10 Pro’s plus column is TÜV Fast-Charge Safety Certification for the phone’s battery and power adapter, a “world’s first” according to Huawei. That bodes well for its longetivity.

But the Note 8 has a leg up in wireless charging, which the Mate 10 Pro doesn’t support. Samsung’s phone is compatible with any Qi-certified charging docks on the market, including the company’s own Fast Charge Wireless Pad.

Despite the Mate 10 Pro’s lack of wireless charging, its massive battery and speedy charging tech beat out the Note 8’s own. It easily wins the power round.

Winner: Mate 10 Pro

Software

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 review app switch

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Given the Mate 10 Pro and Note 10’s hardware differences, it’s not terribly surprising that the software isn’t alike, either.

The Mate 10 Pro runs the latest version of Huawei’s Emotion UI (EMUI), version 8.0, and it’s a substantial improvement over the previous generation. It’s based on Android 8.0 Oreo, and it taps the phone’s NPU to optimize performance and serve up contextually relevant suggestions on the fly. (At night, for example, it might recommend you enable the Mate 10 Pro’s low-light mode.)

That’s not all there is to EMUI. In landscape mode, it divides the phone home screen’s shortcuts into easy-to-access columns. When the Mate 10 Pro is plugged into a monitor, it launches a “desktop-like experience” that’s optimized for the larger screen.

The Note 8, on the other hand, ships with TouchWiz, Samsung’s own brand of Android. It’s based on the older Android 7.1.1 Nougat, and ships with support for the Galaxy Note 8’s face-scanning sensors, Samsung’s Bixby assistant, and a dock (the Dex Station) that transforms the phone into a functional desktop replacement.

But the Note 8 has something the Mate 10 Pro doesn’t: Stylus support.  Screen off memo lets you sketch and write notes on the Galaxy Note 8’s screen without having to switch it on, for instance, and Smart Select generates real-time GIFs. Air Command pulls up a list of app shortcuts when the S Pen is removed from its slot, and Magnify turns the S Pen into a digital magnifying glass, enlarging text and images around its tip.

The Note 8 and Mate 10 Pro’s features are tough to compare and it won’t get any easier once Samsung updates TouchWiz to Android 8.0 Oreo later this year. But it’s largely a matter of personal preference: If a stylus is more your style, you’ll prefer the Note 8. If AI-powered recommendations sound more appealing, then you’ll favor the Mate 10 Pro.

Winner: Tie

Pricing and availability

mate 10 pro

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Huawei has yet to announce U.S. pricing or release details for the Mate 10 Pro, but we’re expecting it to be expensive. The European price is 800 euros (about $945), but it may end up being cheaper when it does go on sale Stateside. It will likely be offered unlocked at various retailers and direct from Huawei, but, like the Mate 9, it may not be picked up by carriers.

The Note 8 starts at $930 for 64GB and is likely to be available from more places. It’s on sale at Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint in the U.S., plus a host of online and brick-and-mortar retailers.

Huawei says the 64GB and 128GB Mate 10 Pro will be available in more than two dozen countries when it launches in mid-November, including France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Poland, Thailand, and the U.K. But the U.S. won’t be one of them.

It’s difficult to call the availability and pricing category until we know what the Mate 10 Pro will cost in the United States, but going on the European pricing, the Note 8 wins this round.

Winner: Galaxy Note 8

Overall winner: Note 8

There’s no two ways about it: The Mate 10 Pro is a fantastic smartphone. Its monochrome-and-RGB rear camera, AI-accelerated software, and gigantic battery put it in a league of its own. But the Note 8 is no slouch. It has dual cameras, too, plus a better screen, wireless charging, a stylus, and wider availability.

So which is worth your money? It’s a close one, but we’re tempted to say the Note 8. A little under $1,000 nets you an eight-core processor, expandable storage, a headphone jack, and wireless charging. Sure, the Mate 10 Pro has better cameras, battery life, and AI-powered apps, but it can’t match the Note 8’s curved screen, iris scanners, and S Pen stylus features. Samsung’s flagship is the better overall buy.

Microsoft Surface Phone rumors and news leaks

Why it matters to you

The latest news from Microsoft spells the end of the Windows Phone OS.

It once seemed inevitable that Microsoft would create a Surface Phone, a handset designed by the same engineering team responsible for the Surface Book and Surface Pro. The company has denied those rumors, but the rumors and leaks have continued, suggesting it’s something the company may still be considering — even if it may not be a product it’s actively developing.

Here’s everything we know so far about the mythical Microsoft Surface Phone.

Microsoft kills Windows Phone, putting the Surface Phone’s future in doubt

After months of speculation, it’s finally official: Microsoft is killing off Windows Phone, the mobile phone operating system that was widely expected to ship on the Surface Phone.

In a tweet on October 8, Joe Belfiore, Microsoft’s head of Windows, wrote that the company would no longer “support the platform [with] new features.”

He blamed lack of third-party support on Windows Phone’s demise.

Microsoft isn’t abandoning the Windows Phone platform altogether — a spokesperson told The Telegraph that it would continue to support its current line of Lumia phones and other Windows Phone handsets. But the wind-down in development puts the rumored Surface Phone’s future in doubt.

Microsoft may wait until late 2017 to release Surface Phone

After the Surface Phone failed to make an appearance at Microsoft’s 2016 BUILD conference, two reports from Windows Central quoting sources close to the matter said that Microsoft would wait until “at least” 2017 to release a phone. It also suggested that Microsoft was working on as many as three separate Surface Phone models: A consumer model, a business model, and a high-spec “enthusiast” model.

The Surface Phone’s delay follows statements by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in November 2016 that clarify Microsoft’s position on smartphones. Specifically, Nadella indicated that Microsoft does not want to simply compete with the industry leaders with a “me-too” device, but focus its efforts and develop the “ultimate” mobile device.

If one reads between the lines, it would seem that the Surface Phone was intended to be a high-end smartphone aimed at providing very specific value to the business market, serving as a halo device for Microsoft’s long-term mobile strategy.

Microsoft purchased surfacephone.com

If you’re looking for a hint that Microsoft will introduce a Surface Phone sometime in the future, then look no further than one Reddit user’s discovery in late January 2016. It appears that Microsoft owns surfacephone.com, and the company even went as far as redirecting it to the main Surface website.

Before you go jumping for joy, this is far from a confirmation that Microsoft is readying a Surface Phone. Often, companies like to stay out of legal trouble by registering domain names that correlate with a current product.

microsoft-windows-mobile-surface-phone-1

It’s important to point out, too, that surfacephone.com was actually registered in May 2007, so it’s not like Microsoft recently purchased it to get ready for a new Surface Phone launch.

Furthermore, Microsoft’s Surface page is within microsoft.com as in https://www.microsoft.com/surface/. Microsoft isn’t even using surface.com for its current crop of Surface devices, and so why would the company use surfacephone.com for a Surface Phone if it gets released? Case in point: Microsoft registered surface.com back in 1994.

Rumored change in mobile strategy as Panos Panay takes charge

A report from Windows Central suggests that the Surface phone rumored earlier in the year has been canceled in favor of a new Surface phone being built by the Surface team, led by Microsoft hardware lead Panos Panay.

The phone was previously referred to as the ‘Panos Phone’ according to Windows Central’s sources. Panos Panay is in charge of the team that designed the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book, meaning we might see a smartphone with a similar design.

Microsoft Surface Book

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Rumors have spread about a Surface phone for years. In a WIRED profile on Microsoft’s Head of Devices Panos Panay last year, it’s mentioned that work was going ahead on “a prototype of a new phone” at Microsoft’s HQ.

Only concepts give us a clue about design

Unfortunately, we have no idea what any Surface Mobile phone will look like, but concept renders were created by Nadir Aslam earlier this year. While the final Surface Mobile phone might not look like these renders, they give a good idea of its possible productivity attributes.

The Surface Phone remains far from official, but we’ll keep you updated here with news and rumors about the device.

Update: Added news that Microsoft has killed the Surface Phone 

Tesla reportedly shipped Powerpacks to Puerto Rico

Elon Musk tweeted last week that Tesla would shift its attentions to help with the aid and recovery efforts in Puerto Rico following the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

Now, it appears that the company is making good on his word: Tesla has reportedly begun to ship its Powerpack batteries, which can be used to store large amounts of energy generated by the sun and other means, to the island. These are Tesla’s massive batteries meant for commercial and utility use, as opposed to the smaller Powerwall packs meant for the home. 

After Musk expressed his willingness to get involved, he and Puerto Rico’s governor Ricardo Rossello exchanged tweets about Tesla’s role on the island, and later spoke in private about the issue. Tesla VP of global infrastructure operations Cal Lankton then met with Rossello, according to Electrek, presumably to discuss a strategy at greater length. The Powerpacks could be the next step in Tesla’s recovery efforts.  

An image showing what appears to be three of the units was published by Electreck, which claims the photo was taken after the rigs were unloaded at San Juan’s airport over the weekend.   

The 3,575-pound Powerpacks can store up to 210 kWh of power, and have been used in Tesla’s projects on the Hawaiian island of Kauai and American Samoa’s Ta’u to create sustainable power grids. The units could conceivably be pressed into service in Puerto Rico to help rebuild the grid using what power can be produced, but it’s not exactly clear what they’re meant for yet. 

If the image is the real deal, the Powerpacks expand on Telsa’s contribution of “hundreds” of smaller Powerwall units sent to Puerto Rico in the immediate aftermath of the storm. The company also provided certified employees to help install the batteries, and Musk pledged that even more qualified workers would be sent from the mainland to train local installers and combat opportunistic price gougers on the island.  

Tesla representatives didn’t immediately respond to our questions about the Powerpacks and the company’s role in Puerto Rico’s recovery, and the company has stayed largely silent about the efforts outside of Musk’s tweets. 

At press time, just 13.7 percent of Puerto Rico has power. Rossello set an “aggressive” goal to restore power to 95 percent of the grid by Dec. 15 of this year, and maybe Tesla’s renewable energy tech will be part of those efforts — but the company shouldn’t be seen as the island’s one and only savior. 

Building a brand-new energy grid based on Tesla’s tech would take far longer than a few months and would require a large number of Powerpacks — the Kauai project, which is on a much smaller scale, depends on a network of more than 270 units. 

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NBA augmented reality app lets you be an iPhone Steph Curry anywhere

Why it matters to you

The NBA is the first major sports league to feature its own augmented reality app.

You are not Steph Curry, but now you can shoot like him with your iPhone. On October 16, the NBA augmented reality (AR) app, NBA AR, was released, and it allows you to test your jump shot on a backboard and basketball court no matter where you are.

In NBA AR, once you load the app, you get to choose your the team whose logo you wish to have emblazoned on your augmented court. Then you will be prompted to move your iPhone left and right around the spot you wish to place your court and backboard so the camera can scan your surroundings before plopping some AR hardwood before you. The app suggests playing in a large space with good lighting, including outdoors, but I was able to get some AR court time inside the Digital Trends offices in New York City.

Once the game starts, you have 30 seconds to drain as many jump shots as you can by tapping the screen to have a ball materialize in front of you. You can shoot the ball by simply flicking your phone forward to shoot. Only two-point and three-point shots are counted in the game, but you are free to move around the court, depending on how much space you have in real life. After each game, you are given your score, and prompted with the next game on the schedule of the team you selected.

Augmented reality has started to heat up around the league this year with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Sacramento Kings releasing their own AR apps. “We’ve always said that basketball can be played virtually anywhere – and today that takes on an expanded meaning,” said Melissa Rosenthal Brenner, NBA senior vice president of digital media, in a press release.  “Augmented reality presents a variety of fascinating engagement opportunities, so we hope our fans download the app and try out their skills wherever they might be.”

This news comes less than a week before the NBA starts its second season in virtual reality. Starting October 21, the NBA will live-stream 27 regular season games in virtual reality via the NextVR app.

NBA AR is currently exclusive to the iPhone and utilizes the new ARKit technology that Apple debuted earlier this year. The app is available for free on the App Store, and is compatible on iPhone models 6s and later running iOS 11. The NBA has plans to add more experiences to NBA AR later this season, so you might be dunking in augmented reality before Isaiah Thomas plays a single game for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Upload exec tasked with turning things around at the troubled VR startup has already quit


The executive tasked with building back community trust in Upload, the VR startup shaken by a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former employee earlier this summer, has quit less than six weeks after officially announcing she had joined the team as COO, multiple sources tell TechCrunch.

(left to right) Upload president Will Mason, former-COO Anne Ward and CEO Taylor Freeman

Anne Ahola Ward joined as COO of Upload, which runs co-working spaces in its LA and SF offices as well as an AR/VR focused education program, after having previously worked with the startup as a client of her SEO agency CircleClick where she continues to serve as CEO.

With this sudden exit, the future grows even murkier for the startup that was once the toast of the VR industry.

Last month, TechCrunch reported that the company had settled the sexual harassment and wrongful termination lawsuit with its former social media manager for an undisclosed sum. A week later, the NYT reported similar details in a front-page story that prompted a public apology from Upload and an open letter signed by the startup’s co-founders promising that the company was making internal leadership changes led by Ward.

Ward was criticized inside the VR community for supporting the company and its co-founders who have faced internal and external calls to step down.

In a blog post first announcing her role, dated August 31, the female executive reassured the community that she would be promoting inclusion at the startup which had been accused of being a “boys’ club.”

“Above all else I want to make it clear that Upload is a place where everyone is welcome. Everyone. We will not tolerate discrimination on the basis of age, race, color, religion, gender, gender expression, disability or sexual orientation,” Ward wrote. “I look forward to making lasting progress for our industry, and beyond.”

Ward declined a request for comment from TechCrunch.

Update: Upload has issued a statement.

Keep track of your kids with the first narrowband network smart tag from Samsung

Why it matters to you

Thanks to Samsung’s new Connect Tag, you don’t have to worry about losing your loved ones or your possessions.

We get it — being a parent is hard. Not only are you expected to feed, clothe, and love these tiny humans, but you also have to keep an eye on them at all times, which sometimes is easier said than done. Luckily, Samsung is here to help — literally.

Keep tabs on your kids (or rather, a tag), with Samsung’s new Connect Tag, which is said to be the first mobile product that leverage narrowband network technology (NB-IoT) to track your loved ones and possessions. In order to connect Internet of Things devices, narrowband networks use cellular communication bands. Such bands are meant for devices that don’t need much data or power, but do need to be securely connected to the internet for location services. And that’s where the Samsung Connect Tag comes in.

The little tag claims to provide location data whether you’re inside or outside using GPS, Wi-Fi based positioning, and cell ID. But more impressively, the tag is said to last a whopping seven days on a single charge. So even if you go several days without noticing that you’ve lost your wallet (or your child), rest assured — you’ll still be able to track your dearly beloved.

Samsung envisions users attaching the tag to a backpack, to a dog collar, to your purse, or just about anything else whose location you’d want to stay aware of. You can also activate the tag’s geofence feature so that you’re made aware anytime your child, pet, or object goes (or is left) beyond predetermined limits. Alternatively, you can set the tag to send a notification anytime the tracked individual enters a certain location — that means you’ll know exactly when little Jimmy walked into school this morning. You can also request the tag’s location at any point by way of your smartphone, or set up notifications so that the tag regularly alerts you as to its positioning.

Promising to be both dust and waterproof, the tag is quite diminutive at just 1.19 cm thick and 4.21 cm wide. You’ll be able to see the tag in person if you attend Samsung’s developer conference later this week, and the unit is expected to go on sale in Korea before making its international debut over the next few months. Pricing has yet to be announced.

Salesforce’s IoT Strategy

Salesforce is a large and well-disciplined development company. It’s pretty good at marketing too. It continues to innovate in all product areas, from core platform to applications, and the one criticism I’d make is that it’s information overload at times. Reminds me of Oracle.

Lately Salesforce has made a big deal of adding its AI product, Einstein, to every application area to provide insights and stack rank options. Given that this is Einstein’s first year, it’s not surprising that the foundational layer looks similar across all of Salesforce’s disciplines.

In cloud after cloud, we see some version of next best… . I expect that we might see examples of this at Dreamforce.

Fast App Development

Back to discipline. Salesforce has been paying a good deal of attention to the applications level these days, in addition to spiffing up its platform. It’s noticeable in banking and finance, as well as in the Internet of Things, but the differences in approach are what’s most interesting.

The company’s IoT approach is very different from what it has been doing in finance. Salesforce recently announced IoT Explorer and the ability to develop IoT applications quickly. App-building tools are a part of the platform. It’s not much of a surprise that more agile development is coming to IoT, but it reveals an interesting take on company strategy.

IoT has a lot of moving parts right now, and the natural inclination for some might be to try to dominate the end-to-end process — from intelligent devices to connectivity to IoT platforms and finally on to business applications. However, three of these four areas might not bring in a nickel for a company like Salesforce.

Specialized vendors that Salesforce would have trouble competing with dominate devices and connectivity. IoT platforms is a similar area, with companies like Amazon Web Services dominating. So Salesforce wisely didn’t try to compete and is dedicated to supporting the leading platforms, leaving the business application area as its chosen place to compete.

Critical Processes

By focusing on the apps, Salesforce appears to be positioning itself as the key to capturing value from investments further upstream in devices and platforms. Typically a business might make independent decisions about those areas, and the business app company better be able to work with whatever is in place, and that’s the strategy.

Given the state of the early IoT market, it makes good sense to go with an app development strategy. It’s too early to have standardized apps that vendors might want to buy off the shelf, so having a quick and efficient development toolset makes all the sense in the world.

On the other side of the industry, there’s financial services and banking — two mature marketplaces with specific application demands. Here the strategy is less about new development than it is about using the platform to make clean and effective changes to process-oriented operational systems.

In banking and finance, Salesforce can deploy its many platform-based tools, along with partners like nCino and Vlocity, to produce systems that cover an institution’s critical processes — like loan origination and customer service.

Again, Dreamforce might have more to reveal here.


Denis Pombriant is a well-known CRM industry researcher, strategist, writer and speaker. His new book, You Can’t Buy Customer Loyalty, But You Can Earn It, is now available on Amazon. His 2015 book, Solve for the Customer, is also available there. He can be reached at
denis.pombriant@beagleresearch.com.

These wireless blocks are your kids’ newest coding teacher

Coding isn’t always easy to learn, and some of the products that are designed to teach coding can be equally as difficult to figure out. These new building blocks on Kickstarter, however, are aiming to make coding lessons a snap.

Cubroid is the latest toy that wants to teach kids programming at a young age. This building block set includes blocks with motors, LED lights, touch sensors, light sensors, sound function, and proximity sensors. How you use them and what you build is completely up to you. (Or, er, your kids.)

Cubroid blocks can be constructed in a variety of ways and are even compatible with run-of-the-mill Legos. The blocks with extra functions can be manipulated through a companion app in a variety of ways. For example, if an LED light is programmed to show a smiley face when exposed to light, you can program it to show a frowny face when there isn’t any light. The app makes your entire learning experience completely wireless, so you can create a function and watch it go. 

You can use these blocks to create anything from cars that speed down a hall to tiny robots that lumber around at your command. Experienced programmers can open up a Scratch program with  Cubroid, and have their creations show off some more advanced functionality.

Visit the Cubroid Kickstarter page to learn more and show your support.