Fortnite: Epic Games sues Google and Apple over app store bans

Fortnite-maker Epic Games is taking legal action against Google after being banned from the Google Play app store, hours after doing the same with Apple.

Apple and Google both removed the hit game from their app stores after Epic Games bypassed their payment systems, to avoid giving them a cut of sales.

Both platforms take a standard 30% of purchases on their app stores.

Google said it runs an “open” system and would work to bring Fortnite back to its official app store.

On Android phones, app stores other than Google Play are available, so it it still possible to install Fortnite from Epic Games’ own launcher app and the Samsung Galaxy app store, making it less restrictive than Apple’s system.

What happened?

Fortnite’s latest update offered all players a 20% discount on its in-game currency V-bucks – but only if they paid Epic Games directly rather than using Apple or Google’s payment systems.

This broke rules applied by both stores.

On Thursday, Apple removed Fortnite from its App Store, leaving new players with no way to install the game.

Epic Games had clearly expected that to happen, quickly publishing a video mocking Apple’s famous 1984-themed television advert about fighting a police state. It published court documents almost immediately.

Hours later, the app also vanished from the Google Play store.

Compared with the high-profile publicity blitz it had prepared to ridicule Apple and mobilise support, Epic has been quiet about Google.

Officially, Fortnite has only tweeted that the app is unavailable on Google Play and “more information will be forthcoming soon”.

What is in the court case?

Documents available through the US court records system show that Epic Games has filed a complaint against Google in a California court, just as it did against Apple.

Much of the complaint is about the compulsory 30% cut Google takes from sales in the Play store, similar to Apple.

The document highlights that Google’s motto was once “don’t be evil”.

“Google has relegated its motto to nearly an afterthought, and is using its size to do evil upon competitors, innovators, customers, and users in a slew of markets it has grown to monopolise,” it says.

It describes a deal that Epic Games had reached with phone-maker OnePlus to make its games available “seamlessly” on their devices.

“But Google forced OnePlus to renege on the deal, citing Google’s ‘particular concern’ about Epic having the ability to install and update mobile games while ‘bypassing the Google Play Store’,” it said.

It said LG had also revealed its contracts with Google prevented it from adding Epic Games software to its devices.

What does Epic want?

Epic Games says it wants to change the mobile app stores to be fairer for all developers.

In both the Apple and Google court documents, it says it is not seeking a compensation payout or more favourable deal for itself.

It has launched a consumer-rights focused campaign using the social media tag #freefortnite.

However, any reduction of the 30% cut taken by Apple and Google would benefit Epic Games enormously.

In a press briefing, the company said it had processed direct payments totalling more than $1.6bn (£1.2bn) – excluding iOS and Google Play purchases.

Games analyst Piers Harding-Rolls from Ampere told the BBC the company generated tens of millions of dollars every month on mobile platforms such as Apple’s iOS.

What does Google say?

In a statement, Google pointed to the fact that users can technically install apps from other locations, and said using the Google Play store was a “choice”.

It added: “The open Android ecosystem lets developers distribute apps through multiple app stores,” it said.

“For game developers who choose to use the Play Store, we have consistent policies that are fair to developers and keep the store safe for users.

“While Fortnite remains available on Android, we can no longer make it available on Play because it violates our policies.”

What does Apple say?

In a statement, Apple said: “Epic has had apps on the App Store for a decade, and have benefited from the App Store ecosystem – including it’s tools, testing, and distribution that Apple provides to all developers.

“Epic agreed to the App Store terms and guidelines freely and we’re glad they’ve built such a successful business on the App Store. The fact that their business interests now lead them to push for a special arrangement does not change the fact that these guidelines create a level playing field for all developers and make the store safe for all users.

“We will make every effort to work with Epic to resolve these violations so they can return Fortnite to the App Store.”

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Intel 11th-gen Tiger Lake vs. Ryzen 4000: Which chip will win?

Now that Intel’s finally announced its new Tiger Lake CPU for laptops Thursday morning, we can finally start making the odds on which chip will win: 11th-gen Tiger Lake or AMD Ryzen 4000.

Sure, we know laptops based on the Tiger Lake CPU aren’t even out yet (wait for a rollout on September 2), and there are far more Ryzen 4000 laptops coming too, but that’s never stopped the media from speculating. In our case, we’ll make the best educated guesses we can based on what we know. Here’s how the competition seems to be shaking out: 

Raja Koduri Intel

The challenger: Tiger Lake

Intel is playing its Tiger Lake cards pretty close to its chest, so there still isn’t a lot on the table. What we know officially is that the 11th-gen Tiger Lake CPU is built on a 10nm process, using SuperFin technology that primarily addresses one of the shortcomings of the original 10th-gen Ice Lake chip: relatively limited clock speeds. 

While the 10th-gen Ice Lake chips were more power-efficient than the older (and confusingly named) 10th-gen Comet Lake CPUs, the top speed of the best 15-watt part, the Core i7-1065G7, was 3.9GHz with a 1.3GHz base clock.

Intel also has a higher wattage Core i7-1068NG7 (exclusive to Apple products, including the 2020 13-inch Apple MacBook Pro) that runs at 28 watts with a turbo clock of 4.1GHz and a base clock of 2.3GHz. Both are quad-core chips with Hyper-Threading and Iris Plus / Gen 11 graphics running at the same clock speed.

Tiger Lake should easily make the 10th-gen chips irrelevant from a performance point of view thanks to the improved transistors. While no clock speeds were stated, you can see from the information Intel released Thursday that the Willow Cove cores in the new Tiger Lake chips will reach close to 5GHz, while the fastest Sunny Cove cores in Ice Lake ran out of gas at 4.1GHz.

Tiger Lake Intel

Intel’s new 11th-gen CPUs with the Willow Cove cores should hit far higher clock speeds than its 10th-gen CPU with the Sunny Cove cores.

Higher clock speeds at higher power draws is easy, but Intel said it’s also getting more efficiency across the board. That means Tiger Lake should actually run at higher clock speeds while using less power. All told, it looks like a pretty decent part.

Intel also greatly beefed up the graphics with Xe LP, a redesigned core that should offer nearly double the performance of 10th-gen Ice lake’s graphics. In fact, Intel claims the 11th-gen Tiger Lake chip running at 15 watts will outperform a 10th-gen Ice Lake chip running at 28 watts.

Ecobee Total Home Comfort and Security Bundle review: An underwhelming home security solution

Ecobee makes the absolute best smart thermostat we’ve tested, and it has a pretty good home security camera. Both devices connect to sensors you can scatter around your home, and either can act as the hub for a self-monitored home security system—provided you’re willing to pay either $5 or $10 per month for Ecobee’s Haven service.

Okay, Haven service is not mandatory, but Ecobee doesn’t have much of a security system without it, primarily because you get only real-time access to its security camera if you don’t subscribe. What’s the difference between the two Haven plans? For $5 per month, you get self-monitoring and 14 days of video recording for one Ecobee Smart Camera. You get the same self-monitoring with the $10-per-month plan, but the 14 days of video recording extends to an unlimited number of Ecobee cameras.

You don’t need to have any cameras to subscribe to Haven home monitoring—you can get by with just an Ecobee thermostat and a collection of occupancy and door/window sensors—but a home security system without a camera leaves you blind. You’ll know someone has opened a door or window or is moving around inside your house when it’s supposed to be vacant, but you won’t be able to see who or what triggered the resulting alerts.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best smart home systems, where you’ll find reviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping.

total home comfort and security bundle Ecobee

Left to right: Ecobee’s smart thermostat, room SmartSensor, smart camera, and door/window SmartSensor. Either the thermostat or the camera can be the system’s hub.

Three configurations

The Total Home and Comfort and Security Bundle reviewed here costs $499 and consists of Ecobee’s SmartThermostat with voice control, its SmartCamera with voice control, three of its SmartSensors, and two of its SmartSensors for doors and windows. The $313 Home Comfort with Voice Control bundle consists of the thermostat and three SmartSensors, and the $279 Home Security Bundle drops the thermostat but includes the camera, two SmartSensors, and two SmartSensors for doors and windows. You can start with any bundle and add components a la carte.

Ecobee’s SmartSensors are one-piece devices that you mount to a wall or set atop furniture to monitor both motion and temperature. In addition to their security function, they also send ambient temperature readings to Ecobee’s smart thermostat and report whether a room is occupied or not. The thermostat takes those readings into account when controlling your HVAC system to reach the programmed target temperature.

Ecobee’s SmartSensors for doors and windows detect motion and report the state (open or closed) of the door or window they’re attached to. These are two-piece units consisting of a sensor and a magnet. When the door or window opens, the magnet separates from the sensor and triggers a message to the hub (the smart camera or thermostat).

ecobee smartsenso Ecobee

Ecobee’s SmartSensor for doors and windows can detect nearby motion in addition to reporting the current state of the door or window it’s attached to.

Depending on the system’s “armed” state (more on that in a moment), the hub (the thermostat or the camera) will in turn send a push notification to your smartphone. In addition to these discrete sensors, the thermostat has an integrated motion and ambient temperature sensor, and the camera has an integrated motion sensor.

It’s worth noting that this is not a complete smart home system: Ecobee does have a smart light switch, but it can’t be integrated with any of these bundles so that motion triggers a light to come on. There are no third-party integrations for smart locks, smart bulbs, or other smart home subsystems, either.

Sony WH-1000XM4 review

The eagerly awaited successor to Sony’s much-lauded WH-1000XM3 over-ear noise cancelling headphones, the inevitably christened WH-1000XM4 introduce some intriguing AI features, and make minor improvements, to an already class-leading noise cancelling set of cans.

Long story short, the best just got a little bit better…

Design & Build

Cosmetically, the WH-1000XM4 look almost identical to their predecessor. The cups appear a tad larger, and there’s now a visible sensor in the left-hand earpiece which enables auto switch-off when you take them off, but general comfort and build is the same.

The faux leather pads remain divinely-soft, and the headband nicely cushioned. Wearing them for a long office stint or journey certainly wouldn’t be onerous at all.

Your colour choice remains black or silver-grey.

Sony WH-1000XM4 design

New Features

So what of those new AI (artificial intelligence) features? Let’s talk smart Adaptive Sound Control, Speak-to-Chat, and enhanced DSEE Extreme…

Like the other smart features on-board, this Extreme iteration of DSEE (Sony’s Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) uses Edge-AI – which is to say AI that can operate on a local device, without need for a cloud connection – to compensate for audio lost during digital compression.

This implementation can analyse music in real-time, recognising instruments, music genres and even individual musical elements, effectively restoring high range sounds.

What makes it particularly interesting is that it’s been designed in collaboration with Sony Music Studios Tokyo, which goes some way to explaining it’s sonic integrity. The results are entirely convincing.

Sony WH-1000XM4 case

Similarly, the new Adaptive Sound Control is geo-aware and can adjust automatically based on locations that you frequently visit. You can set up frequently visited locations – such as your home or office – with your preferred sonic settings in the Sony Headphones Connect App. The headphones will adjust as you move between environments.

Possibly the most interesting of the smart AI features is Speak-to-Chat, wherein the resident AI learns your voice so that it can pause music when you speak, meaning you don’t have to take the headphones off.

It’s certainly clever, but the jury’s out on whether we’d use it every day. For one thing, speaking while wearing active noise-cancelling headphones is just weird. Your disconnected voice sounds like it’s funnelling down a tube.

Secondly, it seems a tad rude not to just drop your ‘phones, particularly as tunes auto-pause anyway and the other person is unlikely to know about the feature anyway.

Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones

Music automatically starts playing 30 seconds after you’ve last spoken, which is a bit too long, although you can adjust this in the app to a more responsive 15 seconds.

Additional new tricks include Multi-Point two device Bluetooth pairing, and wearing detection.

The latter works perfectly. Using a proximity sensor and two acceleration sensors, the headphones automatically pause when you remove them and eventually power down.

Noise Cancelling

While the WH-1000XM4 employs the same dedicated QN1 noise cancelling processor as the WH-1000XM3, Sony claims to have improved cancellation further by curtailing high and mid frequencies. This seems particularly evident when it comes to ambient speech.

The noise cancelling here is eerily good. Sony’s ANC really does isolate you from the outside world.

Sony WH-1000XM4 USB port

Contentiously, there’s no Bluetooth aptX support though. Normally this would be the go-to codec of choice for higher quality wireless streaming.

However, Sony has opted to focus on its own LDAC Bluetooth solution, which also offers Hi-Fi streaming. With LDAC now part of the Android specification, it seems Sony may well be right to do so. Users probably won’t even notice the absence of aptX.

Check out our chart of the best noise cancelling headphones.

Sound Quality 

The WH-1000XM4 sing like angels in heavenly harmony, albeit angels with an ability to drop heavy beats or mosh when required. That said, they don’t sound appreciably different to their predecessor.

They use the same 40mm Liquid Crystal Polymer drivers found in the WH-1000XM3, notable for their crisp highs and tangible bass. Low frequencies are forceful, but not exaggerated, while the mid-range is velvety smooth. These cans aren’t just good for music, they sound excellent with podcasts too.

Sony WH-1000XM4 noise cancelling headphones

Naturally, they’re hi-res 24-bit 96 kHz capable; they can also be used for 360 Reality Audio (as offered by Deezer and Tidal HD).

It’s worth noting that Multi-Point shared Bluetooth disables LDAC, so there’s a drop in quality when you use it.

Battery Life

Battery life clocks in at a substantial 30 hours, more than enough for a couple of days general playtime. And that’s with noise cancelling switched on; the headphones can last 38 without ANC.

If you run out of juice, a quick charging function gives up to 5 hours of wireless playback from a 10-minute top-up via the USB-C port. A full charge will take around three hours, according to Sony.

Price

The WH-1000XM4 sells for £350/US$349, which reflects their premium status. They come with a neat carry case, travel adapter, headphone cable and USB-C cable.

You can buy the XM4 from Sony as well as retailers such as Amazon, John Lewis and Currys PC World.

If you don’t need the smarter functionality, then look for deals on WH-1000XM3, as they sound much the same, ANC notwithstanding. At the time of writing it’s possible to find them for around £229 from the likes of Amazon and John Lewis.

Also check out our best headphones chart to see if the likes of Bose, Cambridge Audio and Nura might tempt you.

Verdict

Rather than rest on its laurels, Sony has pushed the WH-1000XM4 into surprising new areas.

The new Edge-AI driven feature set is nothing if not inventive, and it’s somehow managed to make this already impressive noise cancelling design even more formidable.

All of which would mean naught if these cans didn’t sound great. But they do. Clean, smooth and musical, the WH-1000XM4 are nothing short of sublime.

Still, if these new features don’t get you excited then the previous-gen XM3 will do you proud.

Specs

Sony WH-1000XM4: Specs

  • Design: Over-ear closed
  • Drivers: 40mm dome
  • Frequency response: 4-40,000Hz
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, detachable cable, USB-C
  • Wireless range: 10m
  • Active Noise cancellation (ANC): Yes
  • Battery life: 38 hours (no ANC), 30 hours (ANC on)
  • Audio codecs: SBC, AAC, LDAC
  • Voice control support: Yes
  • Touch controls: Yes
  • Weight: 254g
  • Colours: Black, Silver
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