Leak offers a glimpse at Microsoft’s canceled Andromeda OS for dual-screen devices

Before Microsoft announced the Surface Duo in 2019, the company spent several years working on an operating system codenamed Andromeda. It was envisioned as a reboot of Windows Phone with an emphasis on inking. The company worked on the software until it eventually decided to instead include Android on the Surface Duo. Until now, we’ve only seen glimpses of Andromeda in things like patent filing. But Windows Central recently obtained an internal build of the operating system and installed it on a Lumia 950.

Outside of a rare look at an unfinished project, what’s interesting about seeing Andromeda after all these years is how many of the ideas Microsoft was working on then either made their way to the Surface Duo or apps the company has released since. On the lock screen, for instance, you can see an early version of the Surface Duo’s peek functionality. Meanwhile, a lot of the features you see on the “Journal” home screen eventually made their way to the company’s Whiteboard app, and that’s something you can download from the Microsoft Store.

At the same time, it’s an interesting look at what could have been. Even in the software’s unfinished state, there’s a lot we see in the video that’s genuinely different from anything Android and iOS offer, even to this day. The fact Andromeda allowed you to jot down notes directly on the lock screen, and that they would still be there the next time you unlocked the phone, is something that looks genuinely useful.

Of course, there are probably many good reasons Microsoft ultimately decided not to pursue Andromeda. Launching a device that does something different, let alone a completely new operating system, is no easy task in a mature marketplace. Unless a device does nearly everything right, it’s difficult to overcome the fact most people tend to stick with products they know and are comfortable with.

The Backbone One made cloud gaming on the iPhone feel natural

Whether it’s Xbox Cloud gaming, Stadia, PlayStation Remote Play or just a very severe addiction to Apple Arcade, gamepads are a better way to play many games on your smartphone of choice. Normally that means using some kind of smartphone clip to attach your phone to your existing controller, propping up your phone and hoping for the best, or choosing from an increasing selection of controllers that snap directly onto your phone. Instead of demanding compatible phone cases or separate pieces that connect either side of the phone, the $100 Backbone One is a single-piece controller that extends to fit it.

Unlike the Razer Kishi, which we tested in detail here, the One is a single device with a telescopic backplate that fits around any iPhone. (With some help: the One isn’t compatible with the iPhone 13 Pro. Backbone has, however, started providing a soft rubberized adapter that slides into the controller, ensuring the latest, bigger iPhones fit snugly and securely.)

Backbone One controller review
Engadget/Mat Smith

So why invest in another controller for your phone when most mainstream console gamepads you probably already own already do the job? There are a few reasons. Backbone One, with its direct Lightning connection, sidesteps the extra jeopardy that comes with Bluetooth-connected controllers, which introduce another latency bump in the road. The company has wisely included a charger pass-through (gaming can burn through your battery) so you can keep your phone plugged in as you play.

The device has a subtle matte black finish, with two collar buttons on each side, a four-button layout on the right side (X, Y, A, B), a slightly-too-spongy d-pad on the left and an analog stick on each side. The sticks feel a little looser than others I’ve used, but they’re accurate and comfortable.

Backbone struck a deal with Microsoft, offering a one-month trial of Xbox’s Game Pass Ultimate for new Backbone owners. It said so on the box, it says it in the app, and it’ll say it in an email if you register the controller. You will get the hint.

The button layout does lean more towards Xbox gamers, but my PlayStation muscle memory meant I didn’t have too many issues using the One to play my PS5 remotely – just the usual drawbacks of playing with a controller that isn’t a DualSense, with its unique tricks and features. Using the touchpad will mean reaching for a section of the iPhone screen, while you’re not going to get any haptic feedback from the triggers or controller itself.

There are a handful of buttons in addition to the stable gaming ones. The orange button launches Backbone’s own game portal (part of the BackBone iOS app), while others offer screen and video sharing shortcuts or what you’d expect when pressing start or menu on console controllers.

Backbone One controller review

The controller’s namesake, the spring-loaded backplate, ensures that once your phone is in place, it all feels solid and unified. The controls aren’t going to pull away, nor is there a chance of your phone slipping out. The more I spent playing through Alan Wake, then Deathloop, as well as Apple Arcade titles like Fallen Knight and Fantasian, the more it started to blur into a handheld – one with a high-resolution OLED screen. Unfortunately, you will have to remove any cases to ensure it fits inside the controller chassis.

The companion app has a few useful tricks. It can capture, edit and upload gaming content, and it’s pretty intuitive. I don’t usually capture gameplay unless it’s for work, but I’ve already used Backbone’s implementation to send short clips to friends. The company has also announced a Backbone+ subscription service that integrates Twitch streaming and even enables cable connections for keyboards and more. (You’ll get a free year of the service when buying the controller.) There’s also the ability to join chat groups and lobbies, populated with other Backbone gamers, but it’s not particularly vibrant in comparison to Discord, Reddit or other existing gamer spaces.

The app also serves as a games library, of sorts, of all the games you can play with the Backbone One, across Xbox, Stadia, Apple Arcade and individual games in Apple’s App Store. Unfortunately, it’s literally all the compatible games, including unremarkable game clones, and Xbox and Stadia titles you might not even have a subscription for. It’s a shame the app couldn’t interface with which games I’d already installed – which would be impossible for PlayStation Remote Play, admittedly. Tapping the Backbone button during a game will log the title into the library for more convenient access next time, at least. There’s deeper functionality here, but your mileage may vary. It will show recommendations of popular titles, but it’s the incredibly familiar sights of Among Us, Genshin Impact and Minecraft.

Backbone One controller review
Engadget/Mat Smith

The Backbone One is a capable iPhone gamepad, so much in fact that sometimes I actively choose to play Stadia and even remote-play PlayStation when I’m in another room. It is, however, an expensive one. $100 can buy a couple of PS5 controllers, or an entire box of third-party Bluetooth gamepads and smartphone clips.

But for that price, you get a slick experience that marries well with your iPhone. Over the holidays, when I visited my family, I was able to effortlessly (aside from reading the tiny text) play Deathloop while being hundreds of miles away from my console. Like several existing split gamer pads for smartphones, it’s like a tiny Switch. The app also tries to pool together all your iOS gaming experiences in a single place, which is a nice idea, even if Backbone doesn’t quite nail the execution.

The Backbone One made cloud gaming on the iPhone feel natural

Whether it’s Xbox Cloud gaming, Stadia, PlayStation Remote Play or just a very severe addiction to Apple Arcade, gamepads are a better way to play many games on your smartphone of choice. Normally that means using some kind of smartphone clip to attach your phone to your existing controller, propping up your phone and hoping for the best, or choosing from an increasing selection of controllers that snap directly onto your phone. Instead of demanding compatible phone cases or separate pieces that connect either side of the phone, the $100 Backbone One is a single-piece controller that extends to fit it.

Unlike the Razer Kishi, which we tested in detail here, the One is a single device with a telescopic backplate that fits around any iPhone. (With some help: the One isn’t compatible with the iPhone 13 Pro. Backbone has, however, started providing a soft rubberized adapter that slides into the controller, ensuring the latest, bigger iPhones fit snugly and securely.)

Backbone One controller review
Engadget/Mat Smith

So why invest in another controller for your phone when most mainstream console gamepads you probably already own already do the job? There are a few reasons. Backbone One, with its direct Lightning connection, sidesteps the extra jeopardy that comes with Bluetooth-connected controllers, which introduce another latency bump in the road. The company has wisely included a charger pass-through (gaming can burn through your battery) so you can keep your phone plugged in as you play.

The device has a subtle matte black finish, with two collar buttons on each side, a four-button layout on the right side (X, Y, A, B), a slightly-too-spongy d-pad on the left and an analog stick on each side. The sticks feel a little looser than others I’ve used, but they’re accurate and comfortable.

Backbone struck a deal with Microsoft, offering a one-month trial of Xbox’s Game Pass Ultimate for new Backbone owners. It said so on the box, it says it in the app, and it’ll say it in an email if you register the controller. You will get the hint.

The button layout does lean more towards Xbox gamers, but my PlayStation muscle memory meant I didn’t have too many issues using the One to play my PS5 remotely – just the usual drawbacks of playing with a controller that isn’t a DualSense, with its unique tricks and features. Using the touchpad will mean reaching for a section of the iPhone screen, while you’re not going to get any haptic feedback from the triggers or controller itself.

There are a handful of buttons in addition to the stable gaming ones. The orange button launches Backbone’s own game portal (part of the BackBone iOS app), while others offer screen and video sharing shortcuts or what you’d expect when pressing start or menu on console controllers.

Backbone One controller review

The controller’s namesake, the spring-loaded backplate, ensures that once your phone is in place, it all feels solid and unified. The controls aren’t going to pull away, nor is there a chance of your phone slipping out. The more I spent playing through Alan Wake, then Deathloop, as well as Apple Arcade titles like Fallen Knight and Fantasian, the more it started to blur into a handheld – one with a high-resolution OLED screen. Unfortunately, you will have to remove any cases to ensure it fits inside the controller chassis.

The companion app has a few useful tricks. It can capture, edit and upload gaming content, and it’s pretty intuitive. I don’t usually capture gameplay unless it’s for work, but I’ve already used Backbone’s implementation to send short clips to friends. The company has also announced a Backbone+ subscription service that integrates Twitch streaming and even enables cable connections for keyboards and more. (You’ll get a free year of the service when buying the controller.) There’s also the ability to join chat groups and lobbies, populated with other Backbone gamers, but it’s not particularly vibrant in comparison to Discord, Reddit or other existing gamer spaces.

The app also serves as a games library, of sorts, of all the games you can play with the Backbone One, across Xbox, Stadia, Apple Arcade and individual games in Apple’s App Store. Unfortunately, it’s literally all the compatible games, including unremarkable game clones, and Xbox and Stadia titles you might not even have a subscription for. It’s a shame the app couldn’t interface with which games I’d already installed – which would be impossible for PlayStation Remote Play, admittedly. Tapping the Backbone button during a game will log the title into the library for more convenient access next time, at least. There’s deeper functionality here, but your mileage may vary. It will show recommendations of popular titles, but it’s the incredibly familiar sights of Among Us, Genshin Impact and Minecraft.

Backbone One controller review
Engadget/Mat Smith

The Backbone One is a capable iPhone gamepad, so much in fact that sometimes I actively choose to play Stadia and even remote-play PlayStation when I’m in another room. It is, however, an expensive one. $100 can buy a couple of PS5 controllers, or an entire box of third-party Bluetooth gamepads and smartphone clips.

But for that price, you get a slick experience that marries well with your iPhone. Over the holidays, when I visited my family, I was able to effortlessly (aside from reading the tiny text) play Deathloop while being hundreds of miles away from my console. Like several existing split gamer pads for smartphones, it’s like a tiny Switch. The app also tries to pool together all your iOS gaming experiences in a single place, which is a nice idea, even if Backbone doesn’t quite nail the execution.

Lenovo made a $329 Snapdragon-powered Windows 11 tablet for students

Lenovo has revealed its latest batch of devices geared toward students. Perhaps the most eye-catching offering is a Snapdragon 7c-powered Windows 11 tablet. The company suggests the 10w Tablet might be a great fit for younger students, since the device has a rugged design with a rubber bumper and Corning Gorilla Glass on the Full HD, 10.1-inch display. The screen has a 16:10 aspect ratio and 400 nits of brightness. There are 2MP front-facing and 8MP rear-facing cameras too.

Lenovo 10w Tablet
Lenovo

The tablet comes with a detachable keyboard and there's an optional pen. The 10w Tablet has a 30Whr battery and comes with up to 8GB of LPDDR4x RAM and up to 128GB of eMMC storage. Unfortunately, there's only one USB-C port, but there is a headphone jack, which should help students avoid having to fiddle with the Windows Bluetooth settings. The tablet weighs 573g (1.26 lbs) and 1.1kg (2.42 lbs) with the keyboard.

Lenovo suggests the Snapdragon platform will help deliver responsive performance, dependable WiFi connectivity and an extended battery life. The ARM-based Windows experience hasn't historically beengreat, but we haven't seen Windows 11 running on Snapdragon 7c chipsets as yet. Microsoft has seemingly improved the Windows-on-ARM experience, however. 

The 10w Tablet and keyboard bundle starts at $239 and it's expected to ship in the US in April.

For (perhaps older) students who need extra power, Lenovo is also planning to ship the 13w Yoga convertible laptop in April. The system is powered by an AMD Ryzen 5000 U-series processor with on-chip graphics.

The laptop has a 13.3-inch, Full HD display with 300 nits of brightness. The front-facing 1080p camera has a privacy shutter and you'll find a 5MP camera on the rear. There's an optional fingerprint reader on the power button too.

Lenovo 13w Yoga
Lenovo

The 13w Yoga includes up to 16GB of 3200Mhz DDR4 RAM (which users can upgrade) and up to a 512GB SSD. Lenovo says it has Dolby Audio and a 51Whr battery.

The connectivity options are far more generous than on the 10w Tablet. Along with an audio jack, there are two USB-C 3.2 ports, one USB-A 3.2 port, a full SD card reader and HDMI 2.0. There's WiFi 6 and optional 4G LTE support as well. The 13w Yoga will start at $749.

In addition, Lenovo announced a partnership with VictoryXR to offer educational experiences in virtual reality. Students will be able to access more than 60 VR titles from VictoryXR, centered around science, history and career and technical education. They'll be able to virtually visit the likes of The Great Wall of China and see California Redwoods.

Lenovo made a $329 Snapdragon-powered Windows 11 tablet for students

Lenovo has revealed its latest batch of devices geared toward students. Perhaps the most eye-catching offering is a Snapdragon 7c-powered Windows 11 tablet. The company suggests the 10w Tablet might be a great fit for younger students, since the device has a rugged design with a rubber bumper and Corning Gorilla Glass on the Full HD, 10.1-inch display. The screen has a 16:10 aspect ratio and 400 nits of brightness. There are 2MP front-facing and 8MP rear-facing cameras too.

Lenovo 10w Tablet
Lenovo

The tablet comes with a detachable keyboard and there's an optional pen. The 10w Tablet has a 30Whr battery and comes with up to 8GB of LPDDR4x RAM and up to 128GB of eMMC storage. Unfortunately, there's only one USB-C port, but there is a headphone jack, which should help students avoid having to fiddle with the Windows Bluetooth settings. The tablet weighs 573g (1.26 lbs) and 1.1kg (2.42 lbs) with the keyboard.

Lenovo suggests the Snapdragon platform will help deliver responsive performance, dependable WiFi connectivity and an extended battery life. The ARM-based Windows experience hasn't historically beengreat, but we haven't seen Windows 11 running on Snapdragon 7c chipsets as yet. Microsoft has seemingly improved the Windows-on-ARM experience, however. 

The 10w Tablet and keyboard bundle starts at $329 and it's expected to ship in the US in April.

For (perhaps older) students who need extra power, Lenovo is also planning to ship the 13w Yoga convertible laptop in April. The system is powered by an AMD Ryzen 5000 U-series processor with on-chip graphics.

The laptop has a 13.3-inch, Full HD display with 300 nits of brightness. The front-facing 1080p camera has a privacy shutter and you'll find a 5MP camera on the rear. There's an optional fingerprint reader on the power button too.

Lenovo 13w Yoga
Lenovo

The 13w Yoga includes up to 16GB of 3200Mhz DDR4 RAM (which users can upgrade) and up to a 512GB SSD. Lenovo says it has Dolby Audio and a 51Whr battery.

The connectivity options are far more generous than on the 10w Tablet. Along with an audio jack, there are two USB-C 3.2 ports, one USB-A 3.2 port, a full SD card reader and HDMI 2.0. There's WiFi 6 and optional 4G LTE support as well. The 13w Yoga will start at $749.

In addition, Lenovo announced a partnership with VictoryXR to offer educational experiences in virtual reality. Students will be able to access more than 60 VR titles from VictoryXR, centered around science, history and career and technical education. They'll be able to virtually visit the likes of The Great Wall of China and see California Redwoods.

Amazon sale slashes Fire tablet prices by up to 50 percent

If you've been waiting for a sale to buy one of Amazon's Fire HD tablets, today might be the day. You can currently pick up some key products on sale, with the best deals on the Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 8 Plus, available at all-time low discounts of 50 percent. The Fire 7 is also back to its Black Friday pricing, and kids tablets have big discounts as well. 

Buy Fire 7 tablet at Amazon - $35Buy Fire 8 HD tablet at Amazon - $45Buy Fire HD 8 Plus at Amazon - $55

We gave the 2020 Fire HD 8 a decent 81 score in our Engadget review, thanks to the new design, switch to USB-C charging, long battery life and solid performance. The Fire HD 8 Plus, however, offers a bit more RAM (3GB instead of 2GB), along with a faster processor and wireless charging support. Both models have 32GB of storage that's expandable via microSD.

The Fire 7 is more of a budget option that comes with a 7-inch IPS display, 2MP front- and rear-cameras and hands-free Alexa controls. It also offers roughly seven hours of battery life, depending on what you're doing. The biggest drawback is the lack of Google apps, but at $35, it's great as a couch device for reading, checking social media and browsing the web. 

If you're shopping for the younger set, meanwhile, the Fire 7 Kids Pro tablet is on sale for $50, or half off the regular $100 price. That price makes it an excellent budget kids option, thanks to the decent specs (a quad-core processor, dual cameras and expandable storage), along with the Kids+ content that includes educational content from National Geographic, Rabbids Coding, LEGO and others.

Buy Fire 7 Kids Pro tablet at Amazon - $50Buy Fire HD 8 Kids Pro tablet at Amazon - $80Buy Fire HD 10 Kids Pro tablet at Amazon - $140

Finally, the Fire HD 8 Kids Pro Tablet, with similar features to the Fire HD 7 Kids Pro but a slightly larger screen, is available for $80, for a savings of 43 percent from the regular $140 price. Finally, the Fire HD 10 Kids Pro tablet comes with a 10.1-inch 1080p display, dual cameras, USB-C and 3GB of RAM. That model is available for $140 instead of $200, a discount of $60 or 30 percent. 

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

Apple may have dropped built-in noise cancellation on the iPhone 13

Apple's "Noise Cancellation" accessibility feature has been a staple on past iPhones, but may have been permanently removed from the iPhone 13 series, 9to5Mac has reported. The feature is designed to "reduce ambient noise on phone calls when you are holding the receiver to your ear," a feature that can help make calls easier to hear. 

"Phone Noise Cancellation is not available on iPhone 13 models, which is why you do not see this option in [the Accessibility] settings," Apple support told one of 9to5Mac's readers. When the reader asked for clarification, the support team confirmed that the feature is "not supported."

Questions about noise cancellation came up on Reddit and Apple support pages shortly after the phone went on sale, with readers noticing that it was no longer available on the Accessibility page. The feature is still available with iOS 15 on past iPhone models, but is nowhere to be found on the iPhone 13. 

"Noise Cancellation" normally uses an iPhone's camera microphone to detect and remove ambient noise around you, so you can more easily hear the other person on a phone or FaceTime call — something that can be valuable for the hard of hearing. The issue only applies if you use the handset by itself without, say, Apple's AirPods noise-cancelling earphones. (It does not affect what others hear; for that, Apple introduced the Voice Isolation feature with iOS 15.)  

Apple has yet to officially confirm that the feature has been permanently removed on iPhone 13 devices; so far, the only word about it has come indirectly from Apple Support. As such, Engadget has reached out to Apple for further clarification. 

Apple’s digital car keys may work with Hyundai and Genesis models this summer

Apple's digital car key feature might soon be useful for unlocking more than a handful of BMW models. In his latest newsletter, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman claimed Hyundai and its upscale Genesis badge will support Apple CarKey "by the summer." It's not certain which models would provide the option, but it's notable that some trim levels of the Ioniq 5 and other Hyundai cars include NFC for a (currently proprietary) digital key.

While remote lock controls have been available through smartphones for a while, CarKey (and its Android equivalent) treats the phone more like a physical key. You just have to bring your phone or Apple Watch to the door handle to unlock it, and you can even place your phone in a given area to start the car. People with ultra-wideband iPhones (such as the iPhone 11 and newer) can even leave their phone in their pocket when opening and starting the vehicle.

If the leak is accurate, Apple's move could significantly expand the audience for digital car keys — you wouldn't need to shop from one high-end marque to even consider it. A deal would also suggest the tussle over a possible EV collaboration wasn't enough to deter Apple and Hyundai from exploring a CarKey team-up.

The next iPad Pro will reportedly offer MagSafe charging and a ‘brand new chip’

The murmurs of an iPad Pro with wireless charging are growing louder. 9to5Macsources claim Apple is moving forward with an update to its pro tablet that would include MagSafe wireless charging, but not necessarily how you'd expect. Rather than using a previously reported all-glass back (like most recent iPhones), the new iPad Pro could instead charge through an enlarged glass Apple logo built into a metal back. It would charge more quickly than an iPhone (expected given the iPad's added power draw) and carry stronger magnets to keep the charger in place.

The refreshed iPad Pro would include some more universal improvements, including a larger battery and an iPhone 13-style camera array. There would also be a "brand new chip" 9to5 presumed would be the M2 also expected for a new MacBook Air. Earlier rumors suggested the M2 would have eight cores like the M1, but would run them faster and tout more graphics cores.

There was no mention of a specific timeframe for the iPad Pro update. While talk has circulated of a spring event, there are no guarantees Apple will launch any new iPads in that time frame. Don't be shocked if there is a new Pro, though. The M1-based iPad Pro was as much a chance for Apple to flex its silicon prowess as it was a functional upgrade — an M2 sequel would keep that momentum going, and MagSafe support would help tie the Pro into Apple's wider ecosystem.

The next iPad Pro will reportedly offer MagSafe charging and a ‘brand new chip’

The murmurs of an iPad Pro with wireless charging are growing louder. 9to5Macsources claim Apple is moving forward with an update to its pro tablet that would include MagSafe wireless charging, but not necessarily how you'd expect. Rather than using a previously reported all-glass back (like most recent iPhones), the new iPad Pro could instead charge through an enlarged glass Apple logo built into a metal back. It would charge more quickly than an iPhone (expected given the iPad's added power draw) and carry stronger magnets to keep the charger in place.

The refreshed iPad Pro would include some more universal improvements, including a larger battery and an iPhone 13-style camera array. There would also be a "brand new chip" 9to5 presumed would be the M2 also expected for a new MacBook Air. Earlier rumors suggested the M2 would have eight cores like the M1, but would run them faster and tout more graphics cores.

There was no mention of a specific timeframe for the iPad Pro update. While talk has circulated of a spring event, there are no guarantees Apple will launch any new iPads in that time frame. Don't be shocked if there is a new Pro, though. The M1-based iPad Pro was as much a chance for Apple to flex its silicon prowess as it was a functional upgrade — an M2 sequel would keep that momentum going, and MagSafe support would help tie the Pro into Apple's wider ecosystem.