New HTC Vive Focus Plus Coming This Year

New HTC Vive Focus Plus Coming This Year

The world of virtual reality is about to get another exciting piece of hardware, as HTC has just announced the Vive Focus Plus. The new headset builds on the Vive Focus by adding two new controllers that offer a greater range of movement and freedom to virtual reality experiences.

The Vive Focus Plus

The key thing about the Vive Focus and newly announced Focus Plus is that they’re standalone virtual reality devices. This means that you don’t need a high-end PC hooked up to them, nor do you need to attach a smartphone to the front. Instead, everything the headset needs to deliver a virtual reality experience is contained within, much like the Oculus Quest.

In fact, HTC’s new headset feels like a direct response to the Oculus Quest, because the company’s main focus was on the new controllers that are included with the Vive Focus Plus. Compared to the controller that came with the original Focus, these offer six degrees of freedom (the original supported only three), which means they can be tracked as they move around. This puts HTC’s standalone headset on a level playing field with Facebook-owned Oculus.

Outside of the two controllers, HTC also announced that the new one would be very similar to the original Focus. It has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor powering its 2880 x 1600 AMOLED display.

Physically, the headset has received a slight tweak that will cause it to make contact with more area of the wearer’s forehead, which should help to distribute the weight more evenly, thus creating a more comfortable device for moving around.

Like the previous Focus, buyers will be able to access the Viveport online store to download new apps to their headset.

Vive Focus Plus Price and Release Date

A key thing to note about the Focus Plus is that it’s not really a device targeted at consumers. Instead, HTC is aiming this device at businesses.

For those who are interested in getting their hands on one, HTC didn’t announce exactly when it would be available, only saying that it’ll be out in the second quarter.

The company didn’t announce how much it’ll sell for yet, so we’ll need to wait and see just how much the future of virtual reality will cost.

Read the full article: New HTC Vive Focus Plus Coming This Year

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Nokia Smartphones Are Finally Coming to The US on Verizon and Cricket

It looks like Nokia phones are finally going to be available in the United States thanks to HMD Global and wireless carriers Cricket and Verizon. Two models are set to release later this month, so Nokia fans won’t have to wait too long to get their hands on the Nokia 3.1 Plus and the Nokia 2 V.

And best of all, they’re both budget-friendly phones, so you won’t need to break the bank to get your hands on one!

The Nokia 3.1 and Nokia 2 V

Starting with the higher-end Nokia 3.1 Plus, buyers will find an impressive 5.99-inch screen with an 18:9 aspect ratio. It comes with a beefy 3500mAh battery that should last around two days before needing a charge. It’s powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 439 processor, which is pretty solid for a budget phone. It’ll have 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, which is pretty standard for a cheaper phone.

The Nokia 2, which will be called the Nokia 2 V in the US comes with a 5.5-inch HD screen. Its main selling point, outside of being cheap, is the giant 4,000mAh battery that will be able to run for an extended period before needing a charge. It comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 processor, which is pretty modest. However, it should be powerful enough for budget smartphone shoppers. It only comes with 8GB of storage out-of-the-box but has support for MicroSD cards up to 128GB.

The Nokia 3.1 will be available from Cricket Wireless starting on January 25, 2019, for a very reasonable $ 159.99. The Nokia 2 V, will be available through Verizon on January 31, and HMD Global didn’t announce a price for that device just yet. However, the entry level phone is listed for $ 99 elsewhere.

The Future of Nokia In North America

In a press release, Florian Seiche, Chief Executive Officer of HMD Global commented on the releases and Nokia’s plans for the future in North America.

We are extremely excited and committed to build long-term strategic partnerships with the leading carriers in North America. Our Nokia phone promise is distinct and built on consumer insight – European design and craftsmanship, excellent quality, latest Android and purposeful innovation that enhances your everyday user experience. We want consumers in North America to love and trust their Nokia phones.

Pushing that idea further, Maurizio Angelone, Vice President Americas of HMD Global said, “In 2019 and beyond, we will continue to give consumers a versatile line up of Nokia phones they can use unlocked or with their preferred wireless providers.”

It sounds like these won’t be the last Nokia smartphones to make their way to North America, as the company appears to have big plans going forward.

Of course, we can’t forget that the brick known as the Nokia 3310 already made a comeback!

Read the full article: Nokia Smartphones Are Finally Coming to The US on Verizon and Cricket

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Motorola’s Razr Is Coming Back as a High-End, $1500 Smartphone

A motorola Razr phone on a red background

One of the most iconic cell phones in history could be poised to make a comeback, as it looks like the Motorola Razr is set to return in the form of a foldable $ 1500 smartphone. The announcement of the upcoming phone hasn’t been confirmed just yet, so, for the time being, we need to treat it as a rumor.

Currently, Motorola is owned by Lenovo, and it looks like the company is aiming to cash in on the nostalgia many phone owners have towards the Razr. For many, it was the first “cool” cell phone they ever owned, so it would make a great deal of sense for the company to try to target owners of the original phone.

And if $ 1500 is out of your budget, the Moto G5 Plus is a much more budget-friendly option from the same company.

What We Know About the New Razr so Far

According to Wall Street Journal, the phone is scheduled to launch as soon as February and it will be exclusive to Verizon in the US.

The report says that it will be a foldable phone, which means that Lenovo and Motorola could actually beat Samsung to the market for devices with a folding screen.

Unfortunately, we don’t know too much else about the phone. According to Digital Spy, the device will have a Snapdragon 855 processor and will apparently have an OLED foldable touchscreen that won’t crease or snap, but that’s about all we know for now.

The less exciting part of the rumor is the price, as it appears that the phone will retail for a whopping $ 1500. To put that price into perspective, the 128GB Google Pixel 3 retails for $ 999. Obviously, we don’t have another folding phone to compare it to, but we can definitely say that this won’t be a budget-friendly smartphone by any means.

It’s a New Razr, Yes It Is

As mentioned, the phone is rumored to hit the market as soon as February, so we shouldn’t have to wait too long to hear more concrete details about its specs and features.

The WSJ report indicated that Lenovo is planning to manufacture 200,000 of the luxury phones, so while it won’t necessarily be limited, it does look like there will be a finite amount of devices available.

Want to know more about folding phones? Check out our breakdown of what to expect from the foldable phone future.

Read the full article: Motorola’s Razr Is Coming Back as a High-End, $ 1500 Smartphone

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Sony Confirms the PlayStation 5 Is Coming

Gamers, prepare yourselves, as the next-gen console war is coming. We know so because Sony has confirmed it’s working on a new PlayStation. And if Sony is developing next-generation gaming hardware, then you can be sure Microsoft is doing the same thing.

The PlayStation 4 and Beyond

Sony released the PlayStation 4 in November 2013, so it’s almost five years old at the time of writing. Previous console generations have lasted between five and seven years, leading to speculation that the next-gen consoles are imminent.

The release of the PS4 Pro and the Xbox One X with upgraded specs and support for 4K gaming muddied the issue. However, comments made by Sony president and CEO Kenichiro Yoshida suggest that Sony has one eye fixed firmly on the future.

Sony’s Next-Generation Hardware

In an interview with The Financial Times [Paywall] Yoshida said, “At this point, what I can say is it’s necessary to have a next-generation hardware.” The context being a conversation about Sony’s plans to counter the growing mobile gaming market.

Citing industry insiders who are familiar with Sony’s future plans, The Financial Times suggests the PlayStation 5 (or whatever it’s called) “might not represent a major departure from the PS4, and that the fundamental architecture would be similar.”

Given that context there’s a small chance Yoshida was referring to a new handheld games console to replace the PS Vita, but that’s unlikely. What’s more likely is that Sony will be releasing the PS5 in 2020 or 2021. With Microsoft releasing the Xbox Two soon after.

Start Saving for New Hardware

Gamers are likely to have mixed reactions to this news. A new generation of consoles means spending more money on hardware in order to play the latest and greatest games. However, those games are likely to look and sound better as a result of the new hardware.

For the time being we should all just concentrate on the current-gen consoles. So why not check out the best PS4 exclusives, peruse the best Switch games you can play today, or compare the Xbox One, Xbox One S, and Xbox One X.

Image Credit: Josh Hallett/Flickr

Read the full article: Sony Confirms the PlayStation 5 Is Coming

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Prime Day Is Coming! 10 Amazon Prime Benefits You May Have Overlooked

amazon-prime-benefits

Free shipping and free 2-day deliveries: these two Amazon Prime benefits are the main reasons why over 20 million users have an ongoing subscription. It’s true, Amazon Prime is a fantastic deal!

But those features barely scratch the surface. Amazon has gone above and beyond with Amazon Prime, offering many more benefits that people have forgotten about (or simply never realize existed).

Here’s how to extract the most value from an Amazon Prime membership. If you don’t have a Prime membership yet, perhaps these extra benefits will be enough to justify the annual subscription. Why not grab a 30-day free trial and try it out for yourself?

1. 1-Day and Same-Day Shipping

Did you know that Amazon Prime members in certain cities can get free 1-day shipping and free same-day shipping? To qualify for 1-day or same-day shipping:

  • Your order total must be at least $ 35.
  • For same-day, all items must be marked same-day eligible. For 1-day, all items must be marked 1-day eligible.
  • You must check out before the cut-off time, usually around noon.
  • The shipping address must be in an eligible zip code. As of this writing, there are over 8,000 participating cities and towns across the continental US.

2. Prime Membership Sharing

Did you know that you can share your Prime membership’s shipping benefits with up to four other people? Yes, that’s right: four others can make use of your shipping benefits without you needing to give them direct access to your account (i.e. giving them your account password, which might breach the Amazon Terms of Service).

The only stipulation is that these people must live at the same address as you. Or, in other words, membership can only be shared with actual members of the same household. To invite somebody, you’ll need to know their name, birthday, and email address. When they accept the invitation, they’ll need to know your birthday.

3. Unlimited Photo Storage (Prime Photos)

All Amazon customers start with 5GB of free data storage with Amazon Drive. This includes anything from photos to videos, documents to music files, and whatever else you might want to store on there.

As an Amazon Prime member, your free cloud storage plan is expanded and allows for unlimited photo files storage as part of the Prime Photos program. All photos—whether previously uploaded or uploaded in the future—do not count against your cloud storage data limit.

Note: Photos must be smaller than 2GB. Supported formats include JPEG, PNG, BMP, TIFF, and RAW formats for Nikon (NEF), Canon (CR2), and Sony (ARW) cameras. Prime Photos is only meant for personal, non-commercial use.

4. Ad-Free Video Streaming (Prime Video)

Prime Video is a top contender to both Netflix and Hulu, packed with excellent TV shows worth watching and all kinds of movies ranging from classics to modern hits.

And while Prime Video has long been seen as inferior to Netflix and Hulu, lately it’s gotten a lot better. Amazon Studios recently reached new heights, winning two Academy Awards—Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay—for the Amazon Original film, Manchester by the Sea. Other notable originals include Sneaky Pete, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and The Man in the High Castle.

Note that Prime Video can be extended with “add-on channels,” which grant access to specific types of content that you may be interested in: Anime Strike, BritBox, Broadway HD, HBO, Horror TV, PBS KIDS, Showtime, STARZ, and many more.

5. Ad-Free Music Streaming (Prime Music)

While there’s a lot of entertainment value in Prime Video, it’s not the only streaming service offered by Amazon. If you listen to a lot of online music streams, then Prime Music will flip your world upside down.

Amazon maintains a library of over 1 million songs and albums that can be accessed by any Prime member for free. Prime Music includes unlimited skips, no ads, and access to handcrafted Prime Playlists. Don’t like them? Feel free to create your own playlists instead.

Learn more in our in-depth look at Amazon Prime Music, or get started right now with 4 months of Prime Music for $ 0.99.

6. Free Twitch Subscription (Twitch Prime)

Love playing video games? Then you probably know about Twitch already. For the uninitiated, Twitch is like YouTube except with real-time live-streamed gameplay rather than pre-recorded videos. Twitch started as a platform for watching gaming tournaments and other events, but has since evolved into so much more.

While Twitch itself is completely free, it has bonus features you can unlock with a Twitch Turbo subscription (e.g. no advertisements). What you may not realize is, every Prime membership comes with Twitch Prime, which basically grants the same benefits as Twitch Turbo. But Twitch Prime offers one unique benefit: every month, certain commercial games are made free to acquire and download!

If you already have a Twitch account, you can connect your account to a 30-day free trial of Prime to start reaping the benefits right away.

7. Flat-Fee Grocery Deliveries (Prime Pantry)

Amazon has a program called Prime Pantry that allows you to order special “Prime Pantry” items that aren’t normally available. These items include household essentials and groceries that are too cost-prohibitive to ship individually.

With Prime Pantry, you can two options: either pay $ 7.99 for each shipment of Prime Pantry items or get a Prime Pantry subscription for $ 4.99/month for free shipping on any Prime Pantry order of $ 40 or more. (Orders under $ 40 are still charged $ 7.99 even with a Prime Pantry subscription.)

Due to air shipping regulations, Prime Pantry boxes can only be shipped by ground. Most orders arrive within 4 business days.

If you’re interested, you can grab a 30-day free trial of Prime Pantry and experience it for yourself. You may never need to visit your local grocery store ever again.

8. Kindle Ebook Rentals (Lending Library)

Amazon Prime members who own Kindle e-readers or Kindle Fire tablets can rent ebooks for free from the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Rented ebooks have no due dates and can be shared across any devices connected to your Amazon account. The only restriction is that you can only borrow one ebook per calendar month.

Amazon also offers Prime Reading, which grants unlimited access to over 1,000 ebooks in Kindle format, both fiction and nonfiction.

There’s also the Kindle First program, which allows Prime members to download one free ebook every month. Titles in the Kindle First program are not-yet-released ebooks that are made available as Kindle First picks one month prior to their official release.

9. Free Months of Prime

Here’s a bit of fine print that you probably overlooked: on any order that qualifies for Guaranteed Accelerated Delivery but arrives after the guaranteed delivery date, you can contact Amazon’s support center and request a free one-month Prime extension.

There are a few conditions that must be met in order for the extension request to be validated, but most orders qualify without issue.

amazon-prime-benefits-free-extension

Also, if you’re currently enrolled in a college or university and you have a valid .edu email address, you can register as part of the Prime Student program, which grants a six-month free trial for Prime. When the trial ends, you can upgrade to a full Amazon Prime membership for 50 percent off.

Note: This free trial “only” includes free shipping, free 2-day delivery, and unlimited photo storage with Prime Photos. Prime Video, Prime Music, Kindle Owners Lending Library, and membership sharing are only available with a full Amazon Prime membership.

10. Lightning Deals and Prime Day

Did you know that Amazon has an awesome deals program called Lightning Deals? In short, a Lightning Deal is a discounted item that’s only available in a certain quantity for a certain amount of time.

The Lightning Deals program isn’t exclusive to Prime, but Prime members have something called Prime Early Access. This lets you get a 30-minute head start on most (but not all) Lightning Deals, which is great because these deals sell out surprisingly fast. Visit the Lightning Deals page to see what’s available at any time.

Prime members are also eligible to participate on Prime Day, which is an annual event where thousands of items across the entire site are marked down. If you’ve been thinking of buying an Amazon device, Prime Day is the best day for it. Check out the best Prime Day deals, or read more about it in our in-depth look at Amazon Prime Day.

What Do You Get With Amazon Prime?

To recap, here are all the notable Prime features that come with Amazon Prime:

  • Free 2-day, 1-day, or same-day shipping
  • Prime Photos (unlimited storage for photos)
  • Prime Music (unlimited ad-free streaming)
  • Prime Video (unlimited ad-free streaming, plus Amazon Channels add-ons)
  • Prime Reading (unlimited access to free ebooks, plus Lending Library and Kindle First)
  • Prime Pantry (flat-rate shipping for groceries and household essentials)
  • Prime Early Access (see Lightning Deals before everyone else does)
  • Prime Wardrobe (try before you buy when shopping for clothes)
  • Twitch Prime (Twitch Turbo benefits, plus free games every month)
  • Exclusive discounts when shopping at Whole Foods Market

At $ 119/year, that’s the equivalent of $ 9.92 per month. What other online subscription offers this much goodness for such an affordable price? (Amazon Prime is also available on a month-to-month basis for $ 13/mo.)

If you don’t have Amazon Prime yet, now is the time to grab a 30-day free trial because Amazon Prime Day is right around the corner and you’ll be eligible for all kinds of deals!

Read the full article: Prime Day Is Coming! 10 Amazon Prime Benefits You May Have Overlooked

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What’s New in iOS 12? 9 Changes and Features Coming in Fall 2018

ios-12-whats-new

iOS 12 was announced right on cue at Apple’s 2018 Worldwide Developers Conference, but a rumored major redesign was nowhere in sight. This year Apple is delivering a refined version of iOS 11 (our complete guide to iOS), with a focus on fixing what’s broken rather than overhauling what works.

We’ll likely see some more exciting features revealed in the fall. Apple then takes the wraps off new iPhones, including a rumored iPhone XI in various sizes. Until then, here’s everything we know about iOS 12.

1. Stability and Performance

These are two words every iOS user loves to hear. This year’s iOS update will focus on refinement and boosting performance. This is particularly notable since iOS 11 was criticized for its pesky bugs and subpar performance, particularly on older models. The iOS 11.3 update helped somewhat, but iOS 12 will make further improvements.

Accordingly, iOS 12 targets not only the latest devices, but past hardware too. Apple promises big improvements for older models, with quoted improvements for iPhone 6s Plus users of 40 percent faster app launches. Combined with 50 percent faster keyboard popup, and a camera that’s up to 70 percent faster to launch, iOS will be smoother than ever.

Apple claims that app launching is now twice as fast overall for all devices. Performance is already excellent on the iPhone X and 8, so don’t expect major improvements there. This move is likely a response to last year’s battery fiasco, which saw a performance reduction for older devices based on battery condition.

2. Apple Gets Serious About Privacy

Apple believes privacy is a fundamental human right—it says so on the iOS 12 minisite—which is why the new update makes it harder for advertisers to track users across the web.

Social media share buttons are in the firing line, with Apple promising to block a favorite tracking technique used by Facebook and others. Safari will also attempt to obfuscate unique device characteristics, plus provide tracking alerts for cookies and other website data.

iOS 12 Safari cookies alert

It might not sound like much, but it’s one way Apple is moving to protect its customers. It’s a move that’s befitting of a hardware company, since they don’t have a horse in the online advertising race.

This is also a reflection of the tech world’s current mood when it comes to data privacy and online advertising. With recent developments like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, many consumers have privacy in mind.

3. A Smarter Siri

In iOS 12 you can finally assign your own voice commands to Siri. This lets you trigger app functions via a new Add to Siri hook. An app called Shortcuts will let you manage your custom commands, and you can even create other shortcuts to run multiple commands at once. These might include finding your keys, setting up a route to work, and switching off your lights.

Siri will also have a deeper understanding of your routine, which it learns based on your app usage. This means more relevant suggestions on your lock screen about nearby amenities, your schedule, and even notifying you to turn off your ringer while in a movie theater.

4. ARKit 2.0 for Augmented Reality Apps

Last year’s conference was dominated by news of ARKit, Apple’s new API for augmented reality apps.

Developers have already put this to excellent use, with many shining examples of AR apps available on the App Store. The second version doubles down on Apple’s commitment to the technology, perhaps in anticipation of an Apple-branded headset (potentially this fall?).

AR Kit 2.0

ARKit 2.0 lets multiple iOS devices interact for multiplayer AR fun, with an on-stage demo involving a virtual LEGO set and two iPads. Apple also showed off an app called Measure, which lets you measure items by dragging your finger. Though there are already apps like this in the App Store, presumably ARKit 2.0 will bring improved accuracy.

Even though there weren’t any breakthrough AR moments, two WWDC events in a row have featured the technology prominently. This suggests Apple has serious AR plans it has yet to realize.

5. Memoji and Camera Effects

Remember Animoji, the iPhone X feature that lets you map your expression onto an emoji character? Memoji is similar, except you can now customize your own avatar and use that instead. This would be a bigger deal if we knew if all new iPhones (including the 9) will have the True Depth camera, but we’ll have to wait till fall to find out.

iOS 12 Memoji

iOS 12 also adds four new Animoji including a koala, ghost, tiger and T-Rex. There’s also brand new animated text, filters, and stickers you can use to snap videos and photos right inside Messages.

6. FaceTime Group Chat

With iOS 12 and macOS 10.14, you can now have FaceTime group chats with up to 32 people. Tiles move around the screen based on who is talking, just like Google Hangouts. You can now also use Animoji (and Memoji) or stickers while in a call.

FaceTime Group Chat

It’s about time FaceTime added group chat, since Skype and other competing platforms have had the feature for years.

7. A Better Photos App

Apple is expanding on its machine learning with an improved version of Photos. You can now refine your searches with multiple keywords to better find what you’re looking for. You’ll also see more suggestions for groupings like recent events, places, and people.

The app gets a new For You tab in a similar vein to Apple Music, which makes suggestions based on your photo library. Unfortunately many of the more advanced features—like automatically detecting, tagging, and sharing with friends—require iCloud Photo Library.

That means you’ll need to upgrade your iCloud storage in order to make use of them.

8. Screen Time, Do Not Disturb, and Grouped Notifications

iOS 12 places an emphasis on privacy in the traditional sense of the word. Apple has introduced features that make it easier to ignore your device and manage everything on it.

A new feature called Screen Time monitors how much you use your device, and exactly what you’re doing with that time. It provides a nice breakdown to parents of what their children are doing with their devices, and makes it easier to curate and limit that experience.

Grouped notifications on the lock screen mean less clutter. You can expand and collapse groups, or dismiss a whole load of notifications at once. You can also 3D Touch to see controls for managing your notifications right in the lock screen, rather than having to navigate the Settings menu.

Do Not Disturb mode has also been updated with a more human approach, including location awareness settings. This means enabling DND when you leave a location, or until vague times like “this evening.”

9. Lots of Other Small Updates

iOS 12 brings some small updates to boring apps too. News and Stocks merge into the same app, which means Stocks will make its way onto iPad for the first time. Voice Memos has also been ported to iPad (and macOS 10.14), with automatic iCloud syncing for recordings.

iOS 12 Stocks app

In other news, iBooks is now just “Books” and CarPlay supports third-party apps (like Google Maps or Waze) for navigation. Siri can look up more information, including cooking advice and celebrity gossip. Suggested passwords are now even stronger than before.

One super-handy tiny feature worth mentioning is that security codes for services that use two factor authentication are now AutoFill compatible. So if you’re waiting to log in and you receive the text, iOS will let you tap a button without having to memorize the code or open the message. Neat.

Is Your Device Compatible With iOS 12?

Any iOS device that’s compatible with iOS 11 will be able to run iOS 12. That’s another year of compatibility for owners of the iPhone 5S, iPad Air or mini 2, or iPod Touch sixth generation and newer.

How to Sign Up for the iOS 12 Public Beta

The early developer preview of iOS 12 is already available, with a more stable public beta expected in a few weeks.

You can sign up for the Apple Beta Software Program to be notified when it’s ready so you can try out iOS 12 before it’s ready for launch. Just remember Apple doesn’t recommend installing the beta on your main device, as it may have performance issues and bugs.

There’s no doubt that this year’s announcement lacks the heavy hit of a brand-new technology, service, or radical redesign. But that’s not necessarily bad. Apple’s renewed commitment to older devices and improving performance across the board should be reassuring for customers both old and new.

Read the full article: What’s New in iOS 12? 9 Changes and Features Coming in Fall 2018

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