The Morning After: Microsoft launches its 2021 fall collection

Microsoft has announced a small flotilla of new devices during its fall event, and there’s plenty of highlights to pick through. Most interesting, of course, is likely Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Studio, a notebook with a screen that pulls forward just like its desktop namesake. This replacement for the Surface Book 3 also turns into a tablet-esque PC, although its stacked design may divide users.

As we surmised a few days back, the Surface Pro 8 did get a fairly magnificent redesign with a new skinny-bezel, 13-inch 120Hz display, Thunderbolt 4 and new, faster internals. It’s been built with Windows 11 in mind and goes on sale when the new operating system arrives on October 5th. Thankfully, Microsoft allowed our chum Cherlynn Low behind the velvet rope to spend a little time with the Laptop Studio and Pro 8, so read this for all the juicy details.

Much as with the band U2, we also need to discuss the “other two” members of the lineup, the Surface Pro X and the Surface Go 3. For the former, the only real news is the new, cheaper WiFi-only model, which retails for $899, and the bundling of Windows 11. Similarly, the Surface Go 3 (arguably the Larry Mullen Jr. of Surface tablets) gets faster chip options but is, in most other regards, the same affordable but deeply underpowered device we already know and, uh, love.

Surface Duo 2
Cherlynn Low

On the mobile front, Microsoft announced the Surface Duo 2, its second-generation dual-screen Android smartphone. The most notable upgrade for this year is a triple camera system and a notification bar on the hinge, so you can see what’s going on without opening your phone. And yes, Cherlynn has already spent some time up close with the Surface Duo 2, and you can read all her impressions right here.

Microsoft also unveiled a bunch of other accessories, but the one that’s probably worth focusing on is the Adaptive Kit. It’s a set of add-ons that can help people with accessibility needs get around their Surface devices more easily. That includes raised port indicators, cable wraps and labels to help your fingers land on regularly used keys. Given Microsoft’s increasing focus on ensuring its devices are useful for everyone, products like this are always welcome.

If you’re interested in watching our edited highlights of the event, you can check out our supercut here, and if you’re already reaching for your wallet, here’s all the pre-order information you could possibly need or want.

— Dan Cooper

iPad mini review (2021): The best small tablet gets a facelift

Another Apple device loses its headphone jack.

Image of the iPad Mini (2021)
Valentina Palladino

The new iPad Mini is, more or less, a shrunken iPad Air, with USB-C, a TouchID-capable power button and an 8.3-inch display. What it packs in performance, style and support for the Apple Pencil 2, it lacks in ditching the 3.5mm headphone jack. Valentina Palladino has reviewed the new baby slate, finding that, despite all the changes, much of its basic utility has stayed the same. Sadly, that higher price might be a sticking point for all those folks who wanted an entry-level iPad that doesn’t cause your bank account to break into tears.

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'Guardians of the Galaxy' is already better than the 'Avengers' game

The new title has an emotional core that actually works.

Image from the new video game
Square Enix

Everyone deserves a second chance to make a first impression, and it looks as if the second Marvel game has atoned for the sins of its predecessor. Jess Conditt dived into the world of Square Enix’s Guardians of the Galaxy and has come away pretty pleased. The characters may look and sound different to their cinematic counterparts, but they feel much more fleshed-out, and there’s a better emphasis on relationship building over button mashing. Conditt says the game has an emotional core that bodes well for the finished title, saying it already feels “way better” than Marvel’s Avengers.

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Shareholders claim Facebook overpaid an FTC settlement to protect Zuckerberg

That’s generally considered something of a no-no.

Facebook shareholders believe the company overpaid its $5 billion FTC settlement in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, to personally protect Mark Zuckerberg. Reports say the FTC was originally going to levy a fine closer to $106 million (yes, million). The smaller fee, however, was conditional on Zuckerberg himself being named as a defendant in the case. Those shareholders are alleging in a lawsuit that Facebook offered $5 billion on the condition that Zuckerberg avoided any personal liability.

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Apple won't let 'Fortnite' back on the App Store until all court appeals are exhausted

Its lawyer says Tim Sweeney’s own public comments show the developer can’t be trusted.

Fortnite
Epic Games

It’s always a delight to see wall-to-wall shade buried in a pile of legalese, and this missive, purportedly from Apple’s lawyers, is a doozy. Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has published a letter he received saying Apple won’t restore Fortnite to the iOS and Mac App Stores just yet. The letter, put simply, says Apple cannot presently trust Epic to behave itself, especially after public comments made by Sweeney. Consequently, Fortnite will remain off the platforms until the lawsuit Epic brought against Apple reaches its conclusion. But the letter is well worth a read in its entirety, given all of the sass lurking between those lines.

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Netflix is acquiring the rights to Roald Dahl's books

Twitch reveals new process for dealing with unauthorized music use

London's largest cab company will go fully electric by 2023

The Gitamini is a smaller, smarter "stuff" hauling bot

The Morning After: The iPhone 13 review is here

I’ll admit, I never believed that Apple would release a phone called the iPhone 13, or the 13 Mini, for obvious reasons. Now that the reviews for both handsets are out, it looks as if the company had no reason to think that it was tempting fate with the number. The esteemed Cherlynn Low has taken a deep dive into the pair and found two handsets brimming with refinements.

Naturally, the 13 isn’t as radical an upgrade as its predecessor, and could just as easily have been called the 12S should Apple have cared to dodge the cursed numeral. The focus here is on polishing these devices to an even higher shine, with the majority of the improvements visible in the improved imaging. All in all, however, the usual rule applies: If you’re ready to upgrade from an older iPhone, pull the trigger, but don’t go out of your way to break your contract early.

At the same time, Apple announced that it will let you incorporate your COVID-19 vaccination card into Apple Wallet in the near future. That should help weary would-be travelers looking to get around the world without worrying about losing their paperwork. Plus, as part of the iOS 15 rollout, Dynamic Head Tracking is now available in Apple Music if you’ve got the AirPods Pro or Max hanging from your ears (or head).

-Dan Cooper

Tesla drivers become 'inattentive' when using Autopilot, study finds

The temptations to take your eyes off the road are too great.

Tesla Model 3
Roberto Baldwin

A team at MIT believes that drivers using Tesla’s Autopilot system are less attentive to the road when the feature is activated. Harnessing glance trackers, researchers found that drivers spent less time looking at the road, despite the fact that Autopilot is not a fully-autonomous system. Instead, their gaze was often found directed downwards and toward the center console, which is the sort of thing you’d do if you were playing with Tesla’s beefy touchscreen or your phone. Data like this is not likely to endear Tesla toward the safety authorities, especially when the new head of the NTSB has already said that the marketing for Autopilot is “misleading and irresponsible.”

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HP's Envy 34 All-in-One features a 5K widescreen display and RTX 3080 GPU

It also announced a new Spectre x360 2-in-1 with a 16-inch OLED display

Image of the HP Envy 34
HP

HP has pulled the dust sheets off a host of new gear, with the headline-grabbing Envy 34, uh, grabbing all of the headlines. The machine is packing a 34-inch, 5K widescreen display, a detachable webcam and a wireless charging plate built into the bottom of its stand.

Specs-wise, you can equip this thing with an 11th-generation Core i9 CPU, RTX 3080 GPU and 32GB RAM. Built to take advantage of Windows 11’s Snap Layouts, it should be the ideal sort of kit for the creative professional in your life.

At the same time, the company also unveiled a new Spectre x360 which gets the option of a beautiful, 16-inch 4K OLED display. That can be equipped with either Intel’s Evo graphics or an RTX 3050 GPU, but we’d wager the latter is better suited to drive all of those lovely pixels.

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Tenways’ e-bike debut blends value with style

It does not scream e-bike, and is all the better for it.

Review by James Trew
James Trew

As much as we’d all love to cycle to work, cut our carbon emissions and generally do better, the price of an e-bike is often a sticking point. When some companies are trying to charge $6,000 for a whip, you have to wonder at what point micro mobility will be available for the rest of us.

Tenways is looking to address this issue with the CGO 600, which is currently selling on Indiegogo (usual caveats apply) for $1,400. The CGO 600 has a 250W battery hidden in the downtube, and barely looks like an e-bike at all, both big pluses. Our James Trew has spent the last few weeks biking around on this thing and has nothing but praise for it.

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NASA reorganizes to prepare for future missions to the Moon and Mars

It’ll split into two divisions, one focusing on the ISS, and one on interplanetary jaunts.

NASA’s plans to get humans shuffling around the Moon and Mars means that the organization needs something of a shake-up. Administrator Bill Nelson has announced that the agency is forming two new directorates, one focused on space operations, the other on exploration. Put (very) simply, the former will focus on domestic matters like launch operations, missions to the ISS and, eventually, trips back to the moon. The latter, meanwhile, will have responsibility for building the technology that will eventually see Project Artemis take people to the Red Planet.

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Akai built a 'cheap' controller for its MPC 2 software (updated)

GM details the motors that will power its electric Hummer and other EVs

Mercedes-Benz's EQS EV starts at $103,360 in the US

Amazon's new Kindle Paperwhites have bigger, brighter screens and USB-C charging

The Morning After: China’s tech crackdown reaches TikTok

ByteDance has announced that Douyin, the version of TikTok for China, will introduce new limits for minors under 14. These minors will now be limited to just 40 minutes of use per day and can’t access the app at all between 10 PM and 6 AM.

ByteDance is also urging parents to add in more comprehensive user data to avoid kids lying about their age to get around the ban. At the same time, the company unveiled a new TikTok-esque app called Xiao Qu Xing ("Little Fun Star"), which offers short educational videos.

This is another fairly dramatic move as part of China’s broader crackdown on digital media and video games. Officials have recently described gaming as “spiritual opium” and limited kids playtime to just three hours a week.

Chinese leaders are reportedly concerned that children are becoming addicted to video games, which is having a detrimental effect on their development. The science behind video game addiction is controversial and disputed, with research into the condition ongoing.

Either way, the changes to Douyin aren’t likely to be that wide ranging in isolation since it’s thought that less than half a percent of users are under 14. It’s just the overall trend that’s likely to be worth keeping an eye on, especially if this anti-game rhetoric spreads to other countries.

— Dan Cooper

Ikea's new $40 wireless charging pad mounts underneath your desk or table

No more drilling or unsightly charging plates on your table, desk or nightstand.

Image of IKEA's new under-desk charger.
IKEA

When I added an Ikea-branded wireless charging plate to my Ikea nightstand, I had to buy a custom Ikea hole saw to drill through into the top. As it turned out, Ikea furniture is sufficiently weak that I managed to scorch the wood and the paint with just the friction of the saw. The charging plate was, mercifully, big enough to cover the burn marks, so I never got any lectures about being bad at DIY. I had, however, learned my lesson that drilling out a QI charger was not my forte.

Ikea seems to feel similarly and has now launched the new Sjömärke QI charger, which is strong enough to charge a phone from the underside of your desk. You can glue or screw the chunky $40 unit to the underside of a suitable wooden or plastic table top. Then, all you have to do is drop your phone on the right spot and watch as about 5W of juice wafts into your phone. Or, at least, you will when it arrives in October.

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ZTE Axon 30 review: An 'invisible' selfie camera comes at a cost

That cost being… awful selfies.

Image of the back plate of the ZTE Axon 30
Mat Smith

ZTE’s Axon 30 is one of those rare smartphones offering a (pretty much) invisible front-facing camera. The lack of notch, punch-hole or cut-out means users can take full advantage of the 30’s gorgeous, 6.92-inch, 2,460 x 1,080 120Hz AMOLED display. But, for $500, there are a couple of teeny-weeny compromises you’ll have to accept, including, er, lackluster selfies. We won’t spoil the rest of Mat Smith’s review but, suffice it to say, his feelings on this handset are pretty complicated.

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iOS 15 is now available

Your iPad, Watch and Apple TV will also get updated operating systems.

iOS 15
Cherlynn Low

iOS 15 and its device-specific cousins have now arrived and are making their way to your tech as we speak. Some of the biggest new features include upgraded FaceTime and Messages, better notifications and a Google Lens-esque Live Text function. Some of the more notable features announced at WWDC haven’t arrived just yet, including SharePlay, but those are expected to drop later in the year. At the same time, Apple showed off the full trailer for Finch, the Tom Hanks-fronted post-apocalyptic movie about a man, his dog and his robot trying to survive after the world ends. I imagine it’s a bit like if Cormac McCarthy had written Turner and Hooch after watching Short Circuit.

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US officials can't decide if Honor smartphones are a national security threat

Uh-oh.

Honor
Honor

When Huawei went on the US entity list, the Chinese giant was prevented from working with pretty much every tech company worth mentioning. Huawei couldn’t source chips from Intel or Qualcomm or get software help (and Play Store access) from Google. Consequently, Huawei spun out and sold off Honor, its budget division, for it to thrive free from the sanctions threatening its own future as a global brand.

Unfortunately, those best laid plans may be undone by a quartet of federal agencies who are deciding if Honor should go on the same entity list. Reports suggest that teams from the Pentagon and Department of Energy are in favor of addition, while the Commerce and State Departments are against. If this deadlock can’t be solved, however, the decision could ultimately end up on Joe Biden’s desk to sort out.

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Apple's 2022 iPhones could feature notch-less designs, but not in-display Touch ID

DoorDash expands alcohol deliveries to 20 states and DC

OnePlus' 2022 flagship will share a unified Android 13 system with Oppo

Roku's new Streaming Stick 4K gets Dolby Vision, HDR10+ and better Wi-Fi

Roku OS 10.5 adds better voice support, 5.1 Roku speaker configurations

The Morning After: 12 years in jail for unlocking smartphones

The mastermind behind a seven-year scheme to illegally unlock AT&T handsets has been sentenced to 12 years in jail. Muhammad Fahd unlocked phones for ineligible customers who still had to pay off the cost of their smartphone. AT&T says 1.9 million handsets were unlocked in this manner, and it lost around $201.5 million because of the scheme.

Fahd contacted and subsequently bribed an AT&T employee to help unlock devices until the company locked down the system. Consequently, Fahd commissioned malware to be installed on AT&T’s internal systems, which captured data on both the company and its employees. Fahd was indicted in 2017, arrested in Hong Kong a year later and extradited to the US in 2019.

Perhaps the most staggering part of the story is the lengths Fahd went to keep the project going. It’s not clear if Fahd’s malware put any customer data at risk, but that a scheme like this was able to run for so long is troubling.

— Dan Cooper

Ultra-white paint could reduce the need for air conditioning

Someone stop Anish Kapoor from getting hold of this.

Image of Purdue University's new White Paint that is designed to reflect solar radiation.
Purdue University / John Underwood

Pretty much everyone knows you can make your house a lot cooler if you paint it white, which is common practice in warmer countries. Now, however, a team of scientists at Purdue University has cooked up the ultimate white paint, which, they claim, works so well it could eliminate the need for air conditioning. The covering supposedly reflects 98.1 percent of all solar radiation, theoretically leaving the surface cooler than the surrounding environment. If it works and it’s implemented properly, it could reduce the global energy bill by quite a figure.

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Netflix and Apple TV+ clean up at the Emmys with 'The Crown' and 'Ted Lasso'

HBO is the only ‘traditional’ broadcaster who earned more than streamers.

Image of Jason Sudekis as Ted Lasso, supplied by Apple
Apple TV+, Warner Bros.

In 2020, Apple TV+ was proud to earn just one primetime Emmy for The Morning Show’s Billy Crudup. A year later and the nascent streamer managed to take home 11 trophies, with breakout hit Ted Lasso earning seven of those on its own. In fact, while HBO remains the top dog of this particular awards show, Netflix’s The Crown won most of the big drama nods. It’s clear that streaming services are swallowing the world whole, and the challenge of formerly blue-chip broadcasters is to somehow up the ante on their well-heeled rivals.

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Microsoft's Surface Pro 8 might include a 120Hz screen and Thunderbolt ports

September 22nd is just a few days away.

Two Thunderbolt ports and a 120Hz display.
Shadow Leak, Twitter

Microsoft has a big event coming September 22nd, and an image, via Twitter user Shadow_Leak, purporting to be a store listing suggests the Surface Pro 8 might get some big improvements. New features for the slate include a narrow-bezel, 120Hz display, dual Thunderbolt ports and an 11th-generation Intel Core processor. Given how the Surface Pro has become such a mainstay of Microsoft’s hardware lineup, it’s always exciting to see some dramatic changes year on year.

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NTSB head says Tesla must address 'basic safety issues' with semi-autonomous features

Regulators are not happy with how Tesla operates or markets its technology.

Image of Tesla Model 3 Steering Wheel
Roberto Baldwin

The new head of the National Transportation Safety Board has advised Tesla to get its house in order. In an interview, Jennifer Homendy said she took issue with how Tesla tests, operates and markets its self-driving technology. That includes the “misleading and irresponsible” way it sells Full Self Driving, which encourages people to “misuse and abuse” it. In addition, Homendy said the company needed to address “basic safety issues” rather than focus on headline-grabbing new features. Homendy’s words don’t mean much yet in a policy sense, but it might set the tone on how the NTSB chooses to deal with companies like Tesla in future.

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Harley-Davidson will sell its retro-inspired e-bike by the end of 2021

It’s a beauty but, oh boy, is it expensive.

Image of Harley Davidson's beautiful retro e-Bike
Harley Davidson

Were you disappointed when Harley-Davidson showed off a gorgeous, retro-inspired e-bike then didn’t put it on sale? Thankfully, someone at the company heard your sighs of frustration and is going to release a version, called the MOSH/TRIBUTE, towards the end of this year. Unfortunately, no matter how pretty this thing is, there’ll only be a limited release of 650, and it’ll cost you $5,999 for the privilege of owning one. But, you know, it is pretty.

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India says Google abused Android dominance

It’s the conclusion of a two-year antitrust probe

India’s competition authority has found Google abused its dominant position to box out potential rivals. A two-year probe into how the search giant does business on the subcontinent has found the company in violation of the local competition law. Regulators took issue with how Google prevents manufacturers from using forked versions of Android, and the “arbitrary” nature of the Play Store’s policies. India joins an ever-growing list of countries that have probed Google’s business dealings and found something isn’t right. Regulators have yet to decide if Google’s conduct was illegal and if fines need to be handed out, but given what happened in South Korea just a few days back, we shouldn’t be surprised.

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Amazon has banned over 600 Chinese brands as part of review fraud crackdown

Israel reportedly used a remote-controlled gun to assassinate an Iranian scientist

Cadillac's inaugural Lyriq EV sold out of reservations in 10 minutes

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The Morning After: We review the new GoPro Hero 10

It’s been a decade, more or less, since GoPro crested into the mainstream as the name in small, portable, rugged action cameras. Since then, the company has continued to refine its flagship product, all while defending itself from cheaper fly-by-night competitors. Our James Trew has reviewed the new GoPro Hero 10 Black, which can shoot footage in 5.3K and take 23-megapixel stills from inside that notoriously sturdy housing.

We won’t spoil the bones of his review, but suffice to say the improvements in hardware and shooting technology are certainly welcome. Sadly, you might see a hit in battery life, but GoPro says customers aren’t trying to shoot theatrical movies on a single charge. If there’s one thing James really wasn’t a fan of, though, it was the price, which is $50 more than the last model, even if you subscribe to GoPro’s unlimited cloud backup service.

— Dan Cooper

IKEA's ASUS ROG gaming collection comes to the US and UK this October

But beware the dangers of the gamer tax

IKEA / ASUS
IKEA / ASUS

IKEA and ASUS’ Republic of Gamers division teamed up last year to build more gamer-friendly furniture and gear. Now, the product of that union is coming to the US and Europe after making its debut in Asia. The range includes a sculpted wooden hand to hold your headphones (or, at a push, VR headset) gaming chairs, storage and even a powered sit–stand desk. Bear in mind, however, some of the products are just regular IKEA doodads painted black, with $3 added to the price.

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AMC theaters will accept cryptocurrencies beyond Bitcoin

The company is leaning hard into its ‘meme stock’ status.

AMC CEO Adam Aron has announced the theatre chain will soon accept more than just Bitcoin at its cash registers. In a tweet, Aron said, by the end of the year, AMC would also accept Ethereum, Litecoin and Bitcoin Cash for ticket purchases and at concession stands. The move is likely to boost the company’s relationship with the army of meme-stock traders who provided succor to the beleaguered company in the worst of the pandemic.

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T-Mobile will start offering in-store phone repairs on November 1st

500 stores will offer repairs to Protection subscribers.

T-Mobile has announced it’ll start offering in-store repairs at 500 of its locations on November 1st. Customers who pay for the monthly Protection package can get their broken smartphone repaired on the same day. The company says that “highly credentialed” Assurant technicians will do the work using parts approved by the manufacturer. It’s a good start, especially since getting your phone repaired can be an unbearable chore. Hopefully initiatives like this, coupled with some decent right-to-repair legislation, will make it less of a headache in future.

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Ford will spend $250 million to boost F-150 Lightning production

The company has 150,000 reservations for the electric truck.

Ford F150 Lightning
Ford

Ford will invest a further $250 million to increase production capacity for its F150 Lightning electric truck. The vehicle, which seems staggeringly popular, currently has around 150,000 reservations waiting to be fulfilled. That cash will go on recruiting more workers both to produce the car and the components needed to make it work, like drivetrains and batteries. Sadly, it won’t be until 2022 that Ford will see the benefit of that investment, but it needs to do something to ensure it doesn’t lose sales to its EV pickup-truck rivals.

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Lucid's limited edition Air EV rated for a Tesla-beating 520 miles of EPA range

For comparison, Tesla's Model S with a 100kWh battery pack has a 402-mile EPA range.

Lucid Air EV
Lucid

Don’t shoot the messenger, EV fans, but Lucid says its Air EV has an EPA range of 520 miles on a charge. That’s 100 miles or so more than you could expect out of a fully specced Tesla Model S LRP with the 100kWh battery pack. CEO Peter Rawlinson was bullish, saying its battery management and drivetrain technology is tremendously efficient. Then again, it’s easy to make promises: The real proof will be when we can try this car out for ourselves.

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Microsoft Office 2021 will be available on October 5th

Samsung begins manufacturing 14-inch 90Hz OLED displays

Former 'Destiny' composer could owe Bungie almost $100,000

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The Morning After: Microsoft lets you ditch the password

Microsoft isn’t so much declaring war on passwords as bragging about a successful first strike against them. The Windows maker has announced users can now remove the password from their Microsoft account in favor of something that’s (hopefully) more secure.

The feature, which had already rolled out to enterprise users, will let you ditch your password and leverage Windows Hello’s biometric security tools. Alternatively, you can grab your phone and use the Windows Authenticator app to grant you access to your machine.

Given that passwords have now become such a pain for so many people to use, switching to something more elegant is welcome news. Of course, for this news to drop at the same time as the announcement that Microsoft had to patch a fairly substantial security vulnerability in Office is slightly less comforting.

— Dan Cooper

New York passes law that bans all gas-powered car sales by 2035

It just has to work out how to integrate the necessary infrastructure.

The state of New York has passed a bill banning the sale of gas-powered cars by 2035 which, it hopes, will help slash the state’s emissions. It’s the third major US state to do so, after California and Massachusetts, while Washington state tried, but the bill was vetoed. Given the scale of the challenge to get New York EV-ready, leaders have already tasked a number of agencies to start working on a zero-emissions vehicle masterplan. That will include creating a market for zero-emission vehicles, rolling out charging infrastructure and developing incentives for purchase.

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Xiaomi's 11T Pro smartphone supports Dolby Vision and charges in 17 minutes

The company also announced a new tablet and wearable.

Xiaomi
Xiaomi

Xiaomi’s new device launch includes the flagship X11T Pro, the romantically named superphone with a number of gee-whizz features. That includes 120W HyperCharge technology that promises to juice your phone full in less than 20 minutes. On the imaging front, the X11T Pro is packing a 108-megapixel primary camera that can shoot 8K Video with Samsung’s HD10+ (and AI cinema modes). Watching those magnum opuses should be pretty enjoyable, too, since the phone’s display has a 120Hz refresh rate, Dolby Vision and HDR10+.

At the same time, the company unveiled the Pad 5, an 11-inch tablet with a WQHD+ screen and support for Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. More importantly, however, Xiaomi’s ubiquitous Mi Smart Band 6 now has updates for NFC contactless payments. You’ll also be able to connect to Alexa for voice control, among other things.

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Disney+ is remaking the classic sci-fi movie 'Flight of the Navigator'

Directed by Bryce Dallas Howard.

Still from 'Flight of the Navigator'
Disney

Flight of the Navigator may not have been a global smash hit, but it certainly jibes with a certain age group right now. Now, several years after Disney first planned to do something with the film, the company has announced a reboot for Disney+ is in the works. Details are thin on the ground at such an early stage, but we do know that Bryce Dallas Howard (star of Jurassic World and regular Lucasfilm director) will helm the remake. If you’re looking for your fill of Disney content, Kris Nadus has done their regular deep-dive on this week’s episode of Marvel’s What If.

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Boston Dynamics' Spot robot has learned to replan its routes

The robot dog can navigate around obstacles without human intervention.

Image of Spot, the Boston Dynamics Robot
Boston Dynamics

Well, it’s official, the robot dog that will hunt us all down in the end-times has learned to navigate on its own. Boston Dynamics has announced a software update to its Spot robot means the machine can reroute itself when its regular planned path is blocked. The company says this will enable Spot to better run autonomous inspection tours, taking photos in hazardous or hard-to-reach areas. Yeah, sure, that’s the reason.

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Amazon’s big Fire TV refresh includes the launch of its own ‘Omni’ series

Amazon’s customary early-September refresh of its home entertainment products comes with a big, if not that unexpected, surprise. As part of a whole fleet of new Fire TV devices, the mega-retailer has announced the first launch, at least in the US, of its own Amazon-branded TVs. First up, the Fire TV Omni series is a lineup of 4K screens in 43-, 50-, 55-, 65- and 75-inch sizes. The smaller trio in that lust support HDR10, hybrid log gamma HDR (HLG) and Dolby Digital Plus, as well as the usual Alexa integrations. The larger pair, the 65- and 75-inch models, also get Dolby Vision, as well as a thinner bezel to better fit into your room decor.

These new screens come with a whole bunch of Alexa integrations and links to the broader Amazon ecosystem. As we’ve seen on other Fire TV units, far-field microphones will let you speak to Alexa from across the room, and lets you control the rest of your smart home from the couch. As well as the usual recommendations and curation, the Omni will also let you access TikTok straight from your TV. You’ll also be able to speak to your visitors if you have a Ring doorbell, and if you plug in a webcam to your TV, you can use it for both Alexa calling and Zoom, when that feature is enabled later this year.

Price-wise, these TVs will start at $410 for the 43-inch model and fly all the way up to $1,100 for the 75-inch beefy boi. All of them will be exclusive to Amazon and Best Buy, although it’s worth noting that Amazon is knocking up to $110 off the 50-inch Omni as an introductory offer, making it cheaper than the 43-incher, when they arrive over the next month.

Amazon 4-series TV
Amazon

Amazon is also looking after the lower-end with the “4-series” range of smart TVs, which offer HDR10 and HLG. The lineup includes 43-, 50- and 55-inch sizes, with the same Fire TV smarts and Alexa integrations you'll find on pretty much any comparable Fire TV device. Naturally, Amazon is targeting price with this series, and the 43-inch model will be priced at $370, while $470 and $520 will be enough to grab you the 50-and 55-inch units, respectively. Similarly, Amazon will offer discounts on select models here as well.

Of course, if the idea of handing Amazon even more of your cash fills you with dread, you can also get new Fire TV sets from other manufacturers. Pioneer, for instance, is launching a new 4K set in 43-and-50-inch sizes with HDR10 and Dolby Vision, as well as picture-in-picture with a compatible device. Toshiba, meanwhile, is launching a range of Fire TV sets with far-field voice, which has been a must-have for Fire TV devices for years at this point. These models, however, won't be available until the spring of 2022, but Amazon promises that you’ll get “high-end picture quality in large format sizes,” including a 55-, 65- and 75-inch model.

Image of the new 4K Stick
Amazon

If you’re already happy with your TV, however, then Amazon also has the new TV Stick 4K Max to plug into your existing set. The stick is packing a new processor, 2GB RAM and WiFi 6, which Amazon says will make it smoother, faster and bettererier than any other streaming stick on the market. You’ll also get a bunch of the same Alexa voice features and access to Amazon Luna, the company’s cloud gaming service. The hardware also supports 4K, HDR, HDR10+ and Dolby Atmos, offers live view picture-in-picture and comes with the new Alexa voice remote. When available, it’ll cost you $55 for the privilege of owning one, too.

Bosch’s stink-removal gadget just swaps one smell for another

According to the National Park Service, washing machines are bad for our planet, so bad in fact that they can use up to 41 gallons of water per load. That’s not ideal given the prevalence of droughts as climate change intensifies its work to wipe humanity from the face of the planet. That’s why Bosch, the German multinational which makes, uh, pretty much everything, has created FreshUp. It’s a tool designed to “refresh” your clothes without the need to dump them into your washing machine.

The idea is to remove odors from clothes that are otherwise clean, in the sense that they’re not visibly stained. You know, an evening gown or tuxedo that looks a million dollars but smells like the bottom of a well-visited ashtray, or that t-shirt that goes perfectly with your outfit, but smells a little bit sweaty. In those situations, you’d grab this doodad, rub it over the required garment and step out smelling fresh as a daisy.

FreshUp is a lozenge-shaped device measuring 6.5-inches long, with a 2-inch treatment area on its underside. Once charged and turned on, you press this against your dry clothes so that the process of breaking down the smell can begin. It works as an ionizer, creating a plasma which Bosch says dissolves the connections between odor molecules.

There’s a beautiful design on the top that’s designed to resemble an interlacing series of magnetic field lines. This is backlit in white, and turns purple when it’s actually treating your clothes with its ionization. Despite the overall vibe that this is a product that fell out of a Sharper Image catalog twenty years ago, it’s impeccably designed. Thankfully, there are no “but wait, there’s more” innovations to add to the list of jobs this thing can do.

The battery takes around four hours to charge and will give you an hour of processing before it needs to go back on the wire. Bosch also chose a micro USB port for charging rather than USB-C, which is, you know, a choice you can make in 2021. But it’s not ideal if you’re trying to minimize cable clutter and are looking to ditch the older standard as soon as possible.

As soon as you’ve treated a garment with FreshUp, you’ll be acutely aware of the ionization in the air. It offers a similar smell to the taste you get in your mouth when you’ve bitten your tongue. That iron-in-the-blood scent that clings to your hand when you’ve held onto some loose change while waiting for a vending machine. And it doesn’t just sit on your clothes, but hangs in the air, where on very dry summer days you’ll want to make sure you leave your windows open to encourage airflow.

In its sales pitch, Bosch says that FreshUp was designed to eliminate what it describes as a “chair-drobe.” You know, that pile of clothes in your bedroom that maybe you drape over the back of a chair, or stuff on the bottom of your wardrobe, because they’re too clean to wash. I’m not a regular chair-drobe-ist, but the fan housing of my rowing machine is sturdy enough to drape clothes over on the rare occasions they wind up in this state. Bosch adds that, after treatment, “even tough odors such as cigarette smoke and body odor are removed, leaving clothes as if they have been hung outside to dry.”

Bosch FreshUp, a device designed to refresh clothes with plasma ionization, upside down on a desk.
Daniel Cooper

And here’s where I’ve really earned my wages over the last month or so, because I’ve spent a chunk of this summer sniffing awful things. Not to mention, of course, wearing already-worn clothes and spending way too long with my nose in my own armpit. I’ve been testing a high-intensity exercise bike and trying to be as active as possible, all the while getting my clothes covered in cigarette smoke and frying oil. Consider this a content warning for what is about to follow, as well as a polite request for danger pay.

There were plenty of smells that the FreshUp was able to dispel without breaking much of a sweat, including the cigarette smoke and fried food. It’s in this regard that makes me think that FreshUp is perfect for traveling, when you want to make sure that you’re looking and smelling your best. If your top smells like the inside of an ashtray, just waft this thing over it, hang it up for an hour or two, and boom, you’re away.

But no matter how much I rubbed this thing over the armpits of my well-worn t-shirts (after, I should make clear, the fabric had dried out) I could never banish the smell of my sweat. I tried everything, including leaving a t-shirt hanging up for a day or two and then treating it again, then leaving it to hang for another couple of hours, and nothing. The scent wasn’t eliminated, although I will say that it was moderated somewhat, but not enough to make you not deeply self-conscious about how you smell. But I did wonder if this was a “me” problem rather than Bosch’s, and so grabbed clothes from other family members. One of my relatives who went for a run handed me a pair of their socks which stank so bad that they probably violated chemical weapons laws.

And again, I’d like to reiterate that the time I spent dry-retching was all in the service of good journalism.

Once dried out, I treated those socks and found that, again, FreshUp hadn’t destroyed the smell, but it had reduced the urge to heave. That, broadly speaking, means that this is not going to be your savior if you’re schlepping around in a warm country.

But if you aren’t cursed with the blight of free-flowing underarms (or, in Richard Nixon’s case, upper lip) then I think FreshUp may have a place for you. I can think of some times where, after a long evening on assignment, I’d love to give my clothes an emergency refresh. If you’re doing two or three smart events back-to-back and can’t visit a dry cleaners, then FreshUp is probably a good shout, but the use cases are limited.

But don’t expect the results to be as good as washing, because fundamentally, nothing is going to be able to replace your washing machine just yet. And then there’s the price, which at £250 ($342) is a little high for a device that can’t revolutionize how you do laundry. At least, not yet.

Bosch’s stink-removal gadget just swaps one smell for another

According to the National Park Service, washing machines are bad for our planet, so bad in fact that they can use up to 41 gallons of water per load. That’s not ideal given the prevalence of droughts as climate change intensifies its work to wipe humanity from the face of the planet. That’s why Bosch, the German multinational which makes, uh, pretty much everything, has created FreshUp. It’s a tool designed to “refresh” your clothes without the need to dump them into your washing machine.

The idea is to remove odors from clothes that are otherwise clean, in the sense that they’re not visibly stained. You know, an evening gown or tuxedo that looks a million dollars but smells like the bottom of a well-visited ashtray, or that t-shirt that goes perfectly with your outfit, but smells a little bit sweaty. In those situations, you’d grab this doodad, rub it over the required garment and step out smelling fresh as a daisy.

FreshUp is a lozenge-shaped device measuring 6.5-inches long, with a 2-inch treatment area on its underside. Once charged and turned on, you press this against your dry clothes so that the process of breaking down the smell can begin. It works as an ionizer, creating a plasma which Bosch says dissolves the connections between odor molecules.

There’s a beautiful design on the top that’s designed to resemble an interlacing series of magnetic field lines. This is backlit in white, and turns purple when it’s actually treating your clothes with its ionization. Despite the overall vibe that this is a product that fell out of a Sharper Image catalog twenty years ago, it’s impeccably designed. Thankfully, there are no “but wait, there’s more” innovations to add to the list of jobs this thing can do.

The battery takes around four hours to charge and will give you an hour of processing before it needs to go back on the wire. Bosch also chose a micro USB port for charging rather than USB-C, which is, you know, a choice you can make in 2021. But it’s not ideal if you’re trying to minimize cable clutter and are looking to ditch the older standard as soon as possible.

As soon as you’ve treated a garment with FreshUp, you’ll be acutely aware of the ionization in the air. It offers a similar smell to the taste you get in your mouth when you’ve bitten your tongue. That iron-in-the-blood scent that clings to your hand when you’ve held onto some loose change while waiting for a vending machine. And it doesn’t just sit on your clothes, but hangs in the air, where on very dry summer days you’ll want to make sure you leave your windows open to encourage airflow.

In its sales pitch, Bosch says that FreshUp was designed to eliminate what it describes as a “chair-drobe.” You know, that pile of clothes in your bedroom that maybe you drape over the back of a chair, or stuff on the bottom of your wardrobe, because they’re too clean to wash. I’m not a regular chair-drobe-ist, but the fan housing of my rowing machine is sturdy enough to drape clothes over on the rare occasions they wind up in this state. Bosch adds that, after treatment, “even tough odors such as cigarette smoke and body odor are removed, leaving clothes as if they have been hung outside to dry.”

Bosch FreshUp, a device designed to refresh clothes with plasma ionization, upside down on a desk.
Daniel Cooper

And here’s where I’ve really earned my wages over the last month or so, because I’ve spent a chunk of this summer sniffing awful things. Not to mention, of course, wearing already-worn clothes and spending way too long with my nose in my own armpit. I’ve been testing a high-intensity exercise bike and trying to be as active as possible, all the while getting my clothes covered in cigarette smoke and frying oil. Consider this a content warning for what is about to follow, as well as a polite request for danger pay.

There were plenty of smells that the FreshUp was able to dispel without breaking much of a sweat, including the cigarette smoke and fried food. It’s in this regard that makes me think that FreshUp is perfect for traveling, when you want to make sure that you’re looking and smelling your best. If your top smells like the inside of an ashtray, just waft this thing over it, hang it up for an hour or two, and boom, you’re away.

But no matter how much I rubbed this thing over the armpits of my well-worn t-shirts (after, I should make clear, the fabric had dried out) I could never banish the smell of my sweat. I tried everything, including leaving a t-shirt hanging up for a day or two and then treating it again, then leaving it to hang for another couple of hours, and nothing. The scent wasn’t eliminated, although I will say that it was moderated somewhat, but not enough to make you not deeply self-conscious about how you smell. But I did wonder if this was a “me” problem rather than Bosch’s, and so grabbed clothes from other family members. One of my relatives who went for a run handed me a pair of their socks which stank so bad that they probably violated chemical weapons laws.

And again, I’d like to reiterate that the time I spent dry-retching was all in the service of good journalism.

Once dried out, I treated those socks and found that, again, FreshUp hadn’t destroyed the smell, but it had reduced the urge to heave. That, broadly speaking, means that this is not going to be your savior if you’re schlepping around in a warm country.

But if you aren’t cursed with the blight of free-flowing underarms (or, in Richard Nixon’s case, upper lip) then I think FreshUp may have a place for you. I can think of some times where, after a long evening on assignment, I’d love to give my clothes an emergency refresh. If you’re doing two or three smart events back-to-back and can’t visit a dry cleaners, then FreshUp is probably a good shout, but the use cases are limited.

But don’t expect the results to be as good as washing, because fundamentally, nothing is going to be able to replace your washing machine just yet. And then there’s the price, which at £250 ($342) is a little high for a device that can’t revolutionize how you do laundry. At least, not yet.

Samsung has made a 200-megapixel smartphone sensor

Samsung has just thrown down a gauntlet and insisted that its newest imaging sensor may be the thing that knocks Sony off its perch. The Korean giant has today announced the ISOCELL HP1, which it says is the first 200-megapixel image sensor (with 0.64μm pixels) for mobile devices. It added that the silicon is already small enough to fit in mobile hardware and that the promise of all of those extra pixels is to retain fidelity when pictures are cropped or resized.

Of course, these eye-catching figures don’t really mean a huge amount given that the HP1 will use pixel-binning just like every other overpowered image sensor. But arguably, the biggest innovation here is ChameleonCell, which can adjust the extent of the binning depending on the environment. For instance, in very low light, the camera bins down (by 16) to a 12.5-megapixel sensor, but promises images that are far brighter and clearer compared to its rivals.

Samsung
Samsung

When shooting video in clear light, meanwhile, the system will divide by four, offering a 50-megapixel lens capable of shooting 8K videos at 30 frames per second. All of this averaging, Samsung says, will produce pictures and video that hold “an astonishing amount of detail that helps the image stay sharp even when cropped or resized.”

Samples of the new silicon are available right now, and we would expect to see them popping up in mobile devices in the far-flung future. It's worth noting that Samsung's Exynos 2100 already supports image sensors up to 200-megapixels, so while we wouldn't want to speculate that we'll see this in a future Galaxy flagship, we're also not not saying that.