SpaceX starts selling the Starlink Mini for $599 in select locations

SpaceX has started offering some users a new Starlink kit that's small enough to fit in a backpack, so users can take it wherever they want to and get access to the company's satellite internet service. The Starlink Mini will cost users $599 up front, according to the emails SpaceX has sent out. That's $100 more than the standard dish kit, and users will need to have an existing standard service plan because they can only tack on the Mini Roam service for an additional fee of $30 a month. As TechCrunch notes, a Starlink residential customer will have to pay $150 every month in all if they also get the Mini. 

The smaller dish may not cost that much forever, though. SpaceX said in its message that it's working to make Starlink more affordable as a whole, and that it's only offering a limited number of Mini kits "in regions with high usage" for now. A few days ago, company chief Elon Musk talked about the Mini on X (formerly known as Twitter) and called it a "great low-cost option." He also said that it will cost "about half the price of the standard dish to buy and monthly subscription."

In SpaceX's message, it said the Starlink Mini dish comes with a built-in Wi-Fi router, so it's not only smaller than the standard version, it also needs fewer components to access the internet. It also consumes less power, has DC power input and is capable of download speeds that go over 100 Mbps. In addition to the dish itself, the kit will ship with a kickstand, a pipe adapter, a power supply and a cord with a USB-C connector on one end and a barrel jack on the other. 

As the company mentioned in its message, it's only rolling out to select areas with high usage at the moment. But Michael Nicolls, VP of Starlink Engineering, said on X that the company is ramping up production of the Mini and that it will be available in international markets soon. 

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Sony will terminate its Sony Rewards program

Sony has announced that it will be ending its rewards program at the end of this year. No, it’s not PlayStation Stars, the loyalty program that rewards you digital collectibles for completing certain gameplay tasks. Nor is it the defunct PlayStation Rewards program, which offered PSN bonuses for the most voracious PlayStation gamers. It’s terminating the Sony Rewards program offered through the Sony and PlayStation-branded Visa credit cards.

The company updated the FAQ and Terms and Conditions pages to reflect that it will sunset the Sony Rewards website and mobile app on December 31, 2024, and new members will no longer be accepted into the program effective immediately. Pre-existing Sony and PlayStation cardholders will still be able to redeem points, access their account and submit bonus points and purchase credit request forms through the app between now and New Year’s Eve. However, they cannot send physical bonus points and credit request points by mail after July 21.

Additionally, members can no longer earn points through offers or partner offers, and they can’t link their accounts to the Sony Store or Movies Anywhere. The Sony Rewards customer service will cease operation on February 14, 2025. As far as the Sony and PlayStation credit cards are concerned, cardholders will be contacted by Comenity Bank in due time about changes to the credit card programs but they can keep using them until December 31.

The Sony Rewards program launched in 2017, allowing you to accrue enough points through your Sony or PlayStation credit card to redeem items only from the Sony brand. Redeeming points for PlayStation games seems like a great perk at first glance, but the redemption process is inflexible and the APR for purchases sits at a high 27.99%. The Xbox Mastercard, which Microsoft introduced last year, has the same issue but the APR can be 20.99%, 26.99% or 31.99%, depending on your balance. Plus, there’s no cash back.

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One of our favorite webcams is on sale for only $48

If you’re in the market for a new webcam, you can save 20 percent on one of Engadget’s top picks for video calls. The Anker PowerConf C200, our top budget pick even at its standard price, is on sale for only $48.

Anker PowerConf C200 Webcam captures video in up to 2K resolution. Although 1080p will suit most people just fine (and you can lower it to that, 720p or 360p if you want), we appreciated the extra sharpness and clarity the 2K feed brought to our calls. The plug-and-play webcam has a fast autofocus and an ƒ/2.0 aperture to let in more light and help brighten up darker scenes.

It has dual stereo microphones built in, and you can use its companion software (AnkerWork) to change its pickup sensitivity from the default directional to omnidirectional (the latter for when more than one person is in your room). The webcam has a 95-degree field of view, but you can adjust it to 78 degrees if you prefer a tighter shot.

As far as tradeoffs, it’s a surprisingly short list for this price point. The Anker C200 lacks the fancy AI framing in some of the latest flagship models, and its cube-like shape makes it a bit more challenging than some competitors to adjust while on top of your screen. Its bundled USB-C to USB-A cable is also annoyingly short — not a big deal for laptops, but folks with standing desks or more sprawling desktop setups may need to swap it out for a longer one.

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Anthropic’s newest Claude chatbot beats OpenAI’s GPT-4o in some benchmarks

Anthropic rolled out its newest AI language model on Thursday, Claude 3.5 Sonnet. The updated chatbot outperforms the company’s previous top-tier model, Claude 3 Opus, while working at twice the speed. Claude users (including those on free accounts) can check it out beginning today.

Sonnet, which tends to be Anthropic’s most balanced model, is the first release in the Claude 3.5 family. The company says Claude 3.5 Haiku (the fastest in each generation) and Claude 3.5 Opus (the most powerful) will arrive later this year. (Those models will stay on version 3 in the meantime.) The Sonnet update comes only a few months after the arrival of the Claude 3 family, showcasing the breakneck speed AI companies are working to spit out their latest and greatest.

Chart showing benchmarks comparisons between recent AI chatbot models: Claude 3.5 Sonnet, Claude 3 Opus, GPT-4o, Gemini 1.5 Pro and Llama-400b.

Anthropic claims Claude 3.5 Sonnet marks a step forward in understanding nuance, humor and complicated prompts, and it can write in a more natural tone. Benchmarks (above) show the new model breaking industry records for graduate-level reasoning, undergraduate-level knowledge and coding proficiency. It beats OpenAI’s GPT-4o on many of the benchmarks Anthropic published. However, the latest Claude, ChatGPT, Gemini and Llama models tend to score within a few percentage points of each other on most tests, underscoring the tight competition.

The company claims Claude 3.5 Sonnet is also better at interpreting visual input than Claude 3.0 Opus. Anthropic says the new model can “accurately transcribe text from imperfect images,” a skill it hopes will attract customers in retail, logistics and financial services who need to grok data from charts, graphs and other visual cues. 

Claude’s update also brings a new workspace the company calls Artifacts (above). When you prompt the chatbot to generate content like code, text documents or web designs, a dedicated window appears to the right of the chat. From there, you can prompt Claude to make changes, and it will keep the Artifacts window updated with its latest output.

The company sees Artifacts as a first step towards making Claude a space for broader team collaboration. “In the near future, teams — and eventually entire organizations — will be able to securely centralize their knowledge, documents, and ongoing work in one shared space, with Claude serving as an on-demand teammate,” the company wrote in a press release.

Claude 3.5 Sonnet is available now for anyone with an account to try on its website, as well as in the Claude iOS app. (On both of those platforms, Claude Pro and Team subscribers get higher token counts.) You can also access it through the Anthropic API, Amazon Bedrock and Google Cloud’s Vertex AI. It costs $3 per million input tokens and $15 per million output tokens — the same as the previous model.

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Proton can now back up photos and videos on your iPhone

If your iPhone is digitally bulging at the seams from all those photos on it, Proton has a new way to back them up with Photo Backup for iOS. Photo Backup has been available for Android users since December and it officially migrated to Apple devices.

The Swiss company isn’t just offering another way to automatically upload your photos to a new online storage space. Proton also promises they will be securely stored with secure end-to-end encryption so no else can see or access them.

Proton also promises seamless integration with your iPhone and photo library. The feature can automatically upload and sync your photo and video collection, and provides simultaneous access on the web and mobile devices. There’s also an “Available offline” mode so you can keep your access to certain photos and videos without internet access while maintaining its encrypted safety status.

Proton’s Photo Backup offers free storage up to 5 GB and a $4/month plan for 200 GB of storage space. The Proton Unlimited plan offers 500GB of storage space for $10 per month and access to other Proton services such as Proton Mail and Proton VPN.

Proton started in 2014 as Proton Mail, an encrypted email service funded by a successful IndieGoGo campaign that raised over $550,000 from more than 10,000 backers. Since then, the Swiss company added new encrypted services such as a VPN, cloud storage and a calendar and rebranded itself simply as Proton. The company reinvented itself against on Monday by announcing it would transition to a non-profit model because “a Swiss non-profit structure provides additional security, which a corporation alone cannot achieve,” according to a company blog post. Specifically, the company says that it has no venture capital investors and also noted that Swiss foundations don’t have shareholders, so setting itself up in this new model could be beneficial for the company to stay afloat in a world where Google, Microsoft and Apple’s offerings are dominant.

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Sennheiser Momentum Sport review: Fitness earbuds that lack finesse

Sennheiser could have just trotted out a set of wireless earbuds that were rated IP55 and called it the Momentum Sport ($330), but it went further, adding heart-rate and body-temperature sensors to the made-for-exercise earbuds. These additions give you more insight into workouts, but also feed data to your existing third-party activity apps. Of course, the Momentum Sport also has to excel at the normal earbud stuff, and offer an ergonomic design, active noise cancellation (ANC), touch controls and other common features. Sennheiser has a solid track record with sound quality, but now it has to balance that with the expanded capabilities of the Momentum Sport.

The Momentum Sport’s overall shape is what I wish Sennheiser used for the Momentum True Wireless 4. The former’s rounder profile fits my ears better and feels more comfortable even though they’re slightly larger. Without the fit wing, the Sport version still rests nicely in my ears, though that extra part definitely helps keep them in place during workouts. Simply put, this design feels more refined and I’d love to see the company take a similar direction on its flagship model.

Sennheiser says it aimed for “vivid sound and impressive bass” that would help amp up a workout and it delivered. The stock tuning has noticeably more low-end thump on Justice’s Hyperdrama, bracing the electronic tunes with a thicker layer of tone. That’s definitely something that assists with your energy levels during physical activity. But, as I’ll discuss later, the extra bass isn’t always a good thing.

The Momentum Sport’s marquee features, which are heart-rate and body-temperature tracking, work well. Thanks to the earbuds’ secure fit, you can get constant, dependable readings in Sennheiser’s Smart Control app. Heart rate figures matched those on my Apple Watch, and I confirmed my temperatures with a forehead scan. The Momentum Sport’s readings were consistent with the other devices every time, which means the earbuds are as reliable as other at-home alternatives.

The Momentum Sport earbuds are equipped with body temperature and heart rate sensors.
Billy Steele for Engadget

What’s more, there’s tight integration with apps like Polar, Peloton, Strava and Zwift, so you can use the Momentum Sport with their devices and not just Sennheier’s app, which is mostly designed to tweak settings. However, only Polar’s Flow supports the Momentum Sport’s body-temperature tracking. Sennheiser says this is because Polar is the only company with an ecosystem that keeps tabs on that metric and supports the appropriate sensors. No matter which third-party app you prefer, you’ll probably want to sync the Momentum Sport to one of them, since the Smart Control software only displays real-time readings and won’t keep tabs on trends or monitor stats during workouts.

Although it has to power more sensors, the Momentum Sport still delivers solid battery life. Sennheiser says a single charge offers five and a half hours of playback, and that claim holds up. I didn’t have any issues hitting that figure during my testing of looping audio at about 65-70 percent volume. That’s with ANC on normal mode and heart-rate and body temperature sensors active. The company says you can extend the battery on the Momentum Sport by 30 minutes if you enable Eco Mode in its app. This feature disables aptX audio and both of the body-tracking sensors.

The Momentum Sport lets you tap your cheek for playback and call controls. This is convenient when running, for example, since you don’t have to find the exact location of the touch panel while on the move or if you’re wearing gloves. The downside is that it can be activated by chewing. It is intensely annoying. During my tests, chewing gum or food frequently triggered the controls.

Sennheiser says this is because I have strong jaw muscles (yay?) in close proximity to the sensor, but that doesn’t make it any less maddening. I chew gum during both runs and lifting sessions, so this is a dealbreaker. Just clenching my jaw didn't trigger it, so at least there's that. The only way to remedy the issue is to turn off the onboard controls entirely, which disables both the cheek tapping and more common earbud tapping gestures. 

The Momentum True Wireless 4’s ANC performance is solid but not amazing and that holds true on the Momentum Sport. Both sets of earbuds perform similarly with constant noise sources, lowering the volume of the external roar rather than blocking it completely. Like a lot of the competition (and the True Wireless 4), the Momentum Sport struggles with human voices. Overall, neither of them offer the kind of robust, world-silencing power that Bose and Sony muster.

The Momentum Sport's outer panel accepts taps for onboard controls.
Billy Steele for Engadget

Transparency mode on the Momentum Sport is serviceable, but it’s far from great. The earbuds let in your surroundings well, but don’t pipe in enough of your voice and I found myself getting shouty during a few calls. There’s also an anti-wind mode that comes in handy during outdoor workouts, but it’s a tool nearly all new earbuds are equipped with these days.

Unfortunately, good audio performance isn’t universal on the Momentum Sport. While some albums are detailed and crisp despite the added bass, others are missing punchy highs and a strong mid range. The sound profile compresses things like grungy, distorted guitars and bass lines. Vocals consistently cut through, but the more prominent kick drum in songs like Knocked Loose’s chaotic “Suffocate” relegates guitars to the backseat. In fact, guitars across a range of styles – including alternative, rock and country – lack the depth and detail the Momentum 4 provide. By dialing up the low-end tone, Sennheiser has sacrificed some of the dynamics that usually give its earbuds such great audio. And in a set of earbuds that cost over $300, that’s a shame.

Lastly, let’s discuss the case, which is less sophisticated than Sennheiser’s previous designs. These earbuds cost $330 and the charging case shouldn’t feel this flimsy. The lid closes securely most of the time, but the hinge is just a piece of rubber so the case doesn’t stay open unless you lay it all the way flat. The soft-touch coating feels nice, but compared to the accessories that come with the Momentum line, this case is what I’d expect with a set of earbuds that cost half as much. The good news is, there is wireless charging support and the case is rated IPX4, so it’s not all a loss.

The Momentum Sport presents a dichotomy. On one hand, they’re excellent workout earbuds that reliably track biometric stats for an inside look at your training regime. On the other, they lack the overall sound quality I’ve come to expect from Sennheiser’s Momentum lineup and the overly sensitive controls are an extreme nuisance. The earbuds could improve with some software fine-tuning, but for now, they’re too expensive to buy just for workouts and don’t even perform consistently enough to be your go-to set.

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Meta makes the Threads API available to all developers

Meta is finally making the Threads API available to developers. The company began testing the developers tools with a handful of companies back in March, but is now throwing the door open to more creators and app makers.

For now, the Threads API functionality is somewhat limited. It enables third-party apps to publish posts to Threads and view and manage replies and interactions with their posts. So far, this has enabled Threads integrations with social media management software like Hootsuite and Sprout Social. The Threads API has also enabled tech news aggregator Techmeme to automatically post to the platform.

These kinds of tools are widely used by brands, marketers and power users who rely on more advanced analytics and other specialized capabilities. Interestingly, Meta also suggests that creators could also be interested in using the new Threads API for their own “unique integrations” with the platform.

Meta hasn’t talked much about its future plans for the Threads API, or if it would ever support third-party client apps the way that Twitter did before Elon Musk’s take over of the service. The API could also play an eventual role in Meta’s plans to interoperate with the fediverse, though Meta has said it’s still early days for its plans to make Threads interoperable with decentralized platforms.

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Beats Solo Buds review: Exactly what you’d expect for $80

The idea of Beats wireless earbuds for under $100 is certainly compelling. Until now, the company has operated in the $150-$200 range, except for the $70 Beats Flex, which offers a great collection of features with good sound quality and a comfy fit. However, much of the competition has been keen to offer buds for considerably cheaper prices, doing so by limiting functionality to the basics. With the Solo Buds ($80), Beats has its cheapest true wireless earbuds yet and manages to retain much of its product DNA. But, the company had to dial things back to bring the price down, so don’t expect these earbuds to wow you with performance.

The Solo Buds carry the same overall earbud design that Beats has favored for a while now. A key difference between these and the Studio Buds +, though, is that the Solo Buds are slightly larger to accommodate its bigger batteries. The new model still offers the onboard controls on an angled flat panel, complete with the company’s trademark “b” branding. The good news is that this earbud shape has always been comfortable to wear for long periods of time and that hasn’t changed here. And despite the closed acoustic architecture of the Solo Buds, added micro vents relieve that plugged feeling that can plague earbud wearers after several minutes of use.

Where the Solo Buds deviate from Beats’ previous models is the case. This thing is tiny. In fact, according to the company it’s 40-percent smaller than the Studio Buds + case, which wasn’t enormous by any means. This is because Beats removed the battery from the case. The company claims that doing so makes the Solo Buds more environmentally friendly and it’s one less battery to worry about degrading over time.

If you're into the clear version of the Studio Buds +, you're in luck. There's a transparent red option for the Solo Buds. But, there’s also some bad news: only the case is transparent; the buds themselves are opaque

Like other recent Beats products, all of the software for iPhone owners is baked into iOS. On Android, you’ll need the Beats app to customize the touch controls or download software updates. On both platforms, you’ll get one-touch pairing, fast pair and location-tracking help for lost earbuds. iOS users get the benefit of iCloud pairing with other devices, Apple Watch hand-offs, as well as audio sharing with AirPods and Beats products. On Android, you’ll be able to automatically pair with any device on your Google account and take advantage of multipoint Bluetooth pairing.

Since the Solo Buds only have the most basic features, there’s not much else to list out. However, the company does allow you to reconfigure the press-and-hold control to adjust volume. By default, this action summons your device’s voice assistant on both earbuds. And that’s really the extent of things. There’s no hands-free Siri, no transparency mode, no active noise cancellation (ANC), no wear detection and no support for Apple’s Adaptive EQ.

The Studio Buds + vs. the Solo Buds.
The Studio Buds + vs. the Solo Buds.
Billy Steele for Engadget

For a set of $80 earbuds, the best sound quality you can expect is slightly above average. Most of the time, you get something that’s serviceable, but not necessarily tuning you’d use to listen to the finer details of an album. Beats is on a good run with sound quality on the Studio Buds line and the Beats Fit Pro, but it understandably had to cut corners in places to slash the price on the Solo Buds. It turns out that audio performance is one of those areas.

The Solo Buds still retain some decent detail in the sound profile, but overall, the tuning doesn’t offer the dynamics of the Studio Buds +. Songs are flat and the mix is subdued, lacking punchy highs or booming bass at times. Bilmuri’s “Emptyhanded,” for example, has some loud, distorted guitars that provide the rhythm of the track. Those instruments typically soar and have plenty of texture on pricier earbuds, but here they lack dimensionality and stand out less from the rest of the mix than usual. These aren’t the earbuds in the company’s lineup you’ll want to choose if sound quality is of utmost importance. Instead, the Solo Buds get the job done in a workman-like fashion, without much flash or excitement.

One advanced sound feature that Beats did include is Spatial Audio. It’s automatic and works with songs from Apple Music that are available in Dolby Atmos. Albums like Justice’s Hyperdrama and Wyatt Flores’ Half Life have more robust bass and clarity, sounding less compressed than some other “regular” albums on the Solo Buds. It’s still not flagship-level audio performance, but it’s noticeably improved compared to non-Atmos content.

When it comes to calls, Beats only employs one microphone on each side on the Solo Buds. This definitely impacts voice quality and you’ll sound like you’re on speaker phone more so than on pricier sets of earbuds. The company does a great job of blocking background noise, but during my tests in loud environments, that battle against distractions further degraded call performance. In a room with a loud fan, my voice was choppy compared to in a quieter spot with minimal environmental roar.

The Solo Buds carry a similar overall design to other recent Beats earbuds.
Billy Steele for Engadget

Beats claims the Solo Buds will last up to 18 hours on a charge, which is double or, in some cases, triple what much of the competition offers. The company opted for larger batteries in the earbuds and removed the one from the case, so there’s no extended time to be gained from docking the buds. When they’re dead, you have to put them in the case and plug the case into an outlet with a USB-C cable.

During my tests, I came in one hour shy of Beats’ stated figure. This isn’t too much of a disappointment since I still got 17 hours, and it’s likely due to my setting the volume at 75 percent and leaving the Solo Buds unused for over 24 hours. If you find yourself in a pinch, you can get an hour of playback in five minutes of charging. What’s more, you can use your phone to get the tunes going again with charging via a USB-C connection on both iPhone (15 and up) and Android devices.

Since there’s no battery in the case, there isn’t an LED indicator to show you the charging status of the Solo Buds. You can get that info on your phone by tapping the onboard controls while the earbuds are in the case and close by. It’s inconvenient, but you do get an exact figure instead of just a green or red light.

Beats has entered an increasingly crowded market for earbuds under $100. Not only are big names like Bose or Sony dropping new flagship models every year, but the likes of Anker, JLab and Jaybird are also debuting more ultra-affordable options on a regular basis. And some of them cost less than $50. The current best budget earbuds, according to my colleague Jeff Dunn, is the Anker Soundcore Space A40. Currently available for $50, the A40 offers solid ANC, multipoint Bluetooth and respectable sound quality. Battery life is 10 hours and the buds are rated IPX4 for water-resistance, but there’s no wear detection and the A40 isn’t great for calls, either.

The Solo Buds are a smart play for Beats, and I have no doubt the company will sell a lot of them. They’re good enough for most people, even without features like active noise cancellation, transparency more and wear detection. There’s some solid audio performance with songs in Apple Music, but overall sound quality is flat and lacks the oomph on the Studio Buds + or Beats Fit Pro. However, long battery life and a comfy fit mean you can wear these all day long, and those two things alone might be enough to make up for the Solo Buds’ sonic shortcomings – especially for $80.

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Playstation Portal update aims to make connecting to public Wi-Fi easier

Sony released the Playstation Portal late last year as a way to remotely play titles from your PlayStation 5. The device — which we frankly called "a baffling handheld for no one but Sony diehards" — relies entirely on a solid Wi-Fi connection. Well, as we all know, even in the year 2024, that can be challenging to find and annoying to connect to. Sony is attempting to streamline this process with a software update that should allow you to connect to Wi-Fi from a phone or tablet. 

Starting June 19, you should see a QR code come up on the PlayStation Portal after attempting to connect to a public Wi-Fi network, such as when it requires more than a password (like a sign-in screen). You can scan that on your device and use it to connect more easily. However, Sony is careful to state that it will work for "a range" of public Wi-Fi networks and that the device requires at least 5Mbps to work, but ideally at least 15Mbps. 

This feature comes alongside an update to the PlayStation Portal's touchpad which provides new visual feedback. Plus, you can now display the device's battery percentage at the top right corner of your screen. 

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Gemini in Google Messages now works on any Android phone

At MWC earlier this year, Google announced Gemini's integration with Messages, giving you a way to access the chatbot from within the texting app. The feature was limited to newer Pixel and Samsung Galaxy phones at launch, but now Google has updated its Help page to say that all you need to access it is an "Android device with 6GB of RAM or higher." 9to5Google first reported the change, along with the news that the feature is launching in India. 

At the moment, Google Messages only supports Gemini in the English language in 164 countries where it's available. The only exception is Canada, where it also supports French. (If you're curious, the feature hasn't made its way to France just yet.) Google says it's "working hard" to make it available in more languages and more territories in the future. But for now, your phone has to be set to English — or French, if you're in Canada — if you want to be able to get Gemini to draft messages, plan events or even just chat with you to pass time. 

Take note that you also have to be 18 or over and be using Google Messages with an account you manage on your own to be able to access the feature. You'll also need to make sure your RCS chats is switched on. To access Gemini, simply open the Messages app and start a new conversation to see the option to talk with the chatbot. 

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