An alternative way to capture childhood on your phone

Parents are desperate to record childhood memories and the smartphone has allowed them to do this like never before. But what is the best way to go about it?

If all the videos you took of your children growing up were damaged and you could keep only the pictures or the sound, which would it be?

I liked to tantalise myself with this question before I had children, and I imagined surprising people by saying that – despite being a video journalist – I would choose the sound.

There is something more evocative about it, particularly the voice. To hear again a deceased relative, for example, is more arresting to me than to see a picture or silent video.

However, what I’ve actually found since becoming a parent is that there is another way of recording the fleeting moments of childhood, the results of which are more precious to me than either video or sound.

My preferred method still involves the smartphone, but it is focused on the power of words.

To explain the inspiration behind my method I need to recall my own childhood.

When I was around 10 or 11 years old, I became intrigued by a book I found on my parents’ bookshelf.

It was called Conversations with Children, an anthology of transcripts made by a child psychologist called R D Laing, who recorded what his children had said.

It was full of all the wonderful, crazy, uninhibited ideas you might expect. It was both entertaining and thought-provoking because Laing took the chance to explain the common patterns of emotional and intellectual development experts find in children.

He explained how during childhood we gradually come to understand concepts that determine our place in the world and what is possible within it: size, geography, time, empathy, ownership, societal norms, death.

I determined that when I had children I would record something similar myself.

In 2009 I acquired my first child and Steve Jobs’s third iPhone,

So I was part of the first generation of parents to have easy access to a stills camera, video recorder, audio recorder and digital notepad all in one handy device.

The early iPhones, having a fairly low resolution, didn’t capture video very well. But in any case, when my daughter started to speak her first words, I found that I had a strong impulse to write down what she said rather than film her – remembering Laing’s inspirational book.

To begin with, I wrote her early words in an ornate, hardback book that I bought specially for the purpose, befitting the words’ importance, I thought.

But this presented problems. I soon became worried about losing it. And it took time to find it when there was something to write down, meaning I might forget what had been said in the meantime.

I found it more convenient to write down the words in the Notes app of my iPhone, which I could always whip out of my pocket. Once a month or so I could email the notes so I had a back-up copy. Later, cloud computing would help.

I had never in my life kept a diary, but suddenly it felt vital to record the experiences unfolding around me as accurately as possible.

Some pitfalls immediately became apparent on appointing myself the family’s digital scribe and archivist.

My fumbling on the phone was sometimes misconstrued as untimely and indulgent internet surfing – an injustice when I was actually engaged in the noble task of recording events for posterity. You have to disengage temporarily from family life to make a decent stab of recording it accurately.

Of course I wanted to keep as accurate a record as possible.

But can words, recalled by a human, be as reliable as recorded video or sound?

One thing I’ve found from hours spent filming and recording audio at work as a BBC News video features journalist is that the most poignant moments are very difficult to capture.

You are lucky to have the mechanical equipment on and recording during that telling event that unfolded so quickly around you.

But by using that capturing device that is always on but invisible, known as our memory, any event, any candid, revelatory moment that unfolded suddenly out of the mundane, can be recorded and cherished.

The trade-off is you lose the 100% mechanical guarantee of accuracy.

There have been times when something wonderful was said so perfectly by my children, that I was determined to write down their precise words at the first opportunity.

Unnatural reactions

But inevitably I would be confounded by a thousand preoccupations that looking after children throws your way, resulting in the mental agony that I couldn’t guarantee to myself that I’d recorded the words correctly.

Longer, drawn-out conversations, of course – like an argument between two siblings over who has the larger spoon at breakfast – can’t, unfortunately, be recorded verbatim.

Another issue I’ve encountered at work is the reaction of humans to being recorded.

As soon as the red light is on and the subject is invited to speak, everybody to some extent acts unnaturally, from the member of the public (nervous) to the media-trained professional (too polished, verbose and over-confident).

The most revealing comments – even when a story is completely uncontroversial – are made off-camera, when a person is relaxed and has forgotten the recording device is there.

This doesn’t matter for the uninhibited toddler. But certainly from around five years old, a child has developed enough self-consciousness and a sense of identity to change behaviour when they realise they are being filmed for others and for posterity.

You can tell this from the way they now produce a staged smile for a photograph.

This phase of child development is recorded in my own notes.

I begin to find references, from around the age of five, to the whole note-recording process, including requests for things to be written down because the subjects themselves realise what they have said is funny or otherwise noteworthy.

Occasionally there is an objection to the whole enterprise, for being embarrassing or boring.

Of course I’m sure I’m not the first parent to have written down the choice words their children have spoken.

But I am one of the new generation to benefit from having the smartphone to aid the enterprise.

In an age when parents are obsessively filming, photographing and sharing to social media, I think it’s worth remembering the power of this simpler, in some ways more intimate, method.

It’s something I came to appreciate even more as I witnessed my children learning to read and write themselves: the joy of being absorbed in a book you are devouring, the creative possibilities opened up by writing.

Both are so much more fulfilling than passively consuming an endless stream of games and videos on a mobile device.

Future-proof

Recording childhood through a digital record of words also carries some practical benefits. It avoids the nightmare of trying to sync videos from your phone and then organise and archive them in a safe place.

And it is also more future-proof, because you have to wonder whether, in decades’ time, the video file formats you used will still be readable.

Today my children have both reached five years old. The endearing, hilarious, uninhibited, sweet, surreal words still flow – although now they are more of a manageable trickle.

My book stands at 135 pages long.

When I look back on the notes, the power of these words is already greater than I could have imagined when I started the project.

To reread them stirs memories, recalling sights and sounds from the moment they were spoken, in a very vivid way.

Perhaps one day when I am frail in a care home this most precious book can be read to me.

Perhaps by my own children, if they visit.

And they will know that I was there and I heard every word.

And that I cared enough to record it.

You can follow Dougal Shaw on Twitter: @dougalshawbbc

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How to watch Game of Thrones season 8, episode 2 stream online from anywhere

Last week we were finally gifted with the return of Game of Thrones. As excited as we were to finally get to watch Game of Thrones again, it pales in comparison to how we’re feeling about season 8 episode 2.

While last week’s episode got us feeling the GoT shivers once again, it didn’t quite swing into the all out warfare the finale is promising, but promo trailers for season 8 episode 2 show that everything is about to change. With conflicts between pretty much every character you can think of being advertised, you are not going to want to miss this second episode.

Game of Thrones season 8, Episode 2: when and where?

The date to mark for the second episode is Sunday 21. It will be airing in the US on HBO at 9pm ET, 6pm PT.

Depending on where you live that will mean a different streaming service and time. For example those wanting to watch from the UK should expect an early start of 2AM!

You can see a more thorough list of countries and where to watch from below.

Luckily for you, you’re in the right place for all your how to watch Game of Thrones episode 2 know-how. We’ve tracked down the streaming services, costs and times for the second episode so you can be ready with your bowl of popcorn before it starts – you can find a full guide for several countries down below.

We would attempt to catch you up on seasons 1-7 in preparation for the new episode but considering there’s 2 days, 15 hours and 30 minutes worth of content…it might take us a while. Just know, this season is going to be big! 

So with the first episode now live and the second imminent, this is the place to be to see how to watch Game of Thrones season 8, episode 2, no matter where you live. 

Watch Game of Thrones episode 2: stream from outside your country

Want to watch Game of Thrones season 8, episode 2 in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, India, UAE or New Zealand? We’ve found all of your best options and listed them below.

But, if you find yourself in the unfortunate circumstances where you’ve booked a holiday over the air time of the first episode, then things get a bit more difficult. For those unlucky fans, all hope isn’t lost yet. You will find that watching it won’t be an option thanks to geo-blocking. This means that broadcasters do tend to try and stop you from watching in other countries, putting up some virtual roadblocks.

But, thanks to a little bit of working around, there is still a way to catch all the episodes while you’re away. By using a VPN, you will still be able to catch up on the show by changing your IP address to a location back where you live, allowing you to watch that important first episode (assuming that doesn’t breach any TS&Cs, of course) – and that’s without finding some dodgy stream on Reddit.

We’ve tested hundreds of VPNs and can recommend these as the three best VPN options currently available: 

1. Express VPN (comes with a 30 day money back guarantee)
This is the #1 rated best VPN in the world right now thanks to its speed, security and ease-of-use. You can watch on many devices at once including Smart TVs, Fire TV Stick, PC, Mac, iPhone, Android phone, iPads, tablets etc. Check out Express VPN and get 3 months FREE with an annual plan
2. NordVPN: SmartPlay tech makes NordVPN a great, affordable choice for streaming
3. IPVanish supports up to 10 devices, so great on the go and with a focus on security

Game of thrones season 8 episode 2

Watch Game of Thrones episode 2 online in the USA

With HBO having the rights to Game of Thrones, it is absolutely no surprise that they are the place to go to watch it in the US. Unfortunately, it will probably also be no surprise that this means you will have to sign up to a HBO subscription to watch the show.

HBO does offers a few packages, all of which are pretty flexible. That means you can sign up for one month, finish the second episode and then cancel if needs be.

Not to mention, HBO offers free trials on all of its packages, which helps soften the blow. Prices start at $14.99 a month with HBO and go up depending on which package you choose.

Season 8, episode 2 will air on HBO on Sunday, April 21 at 9pm ET, 6pm PT.

How to Watch Game of thrones season 8 episode 2

Watch Game of Thrones episode 2 online in the UK

For fans from the UK there are two options for watching each episode of Game of Thrones, either through Sky Atlantic or via a Now TV Entertainment Pass.  

Option 1: watch live on Sky
Watching it live will require going with Sky Atlantic as Now TV is only offering catch up. Unfortunately, the air time for episode one wasn’t brilliant in the UK and episode 2 will be exactly the same. You can tune in to watch season 8, episode 2 on Monday, April 22 at 2am. 

Make it through the whole day without finding out the spoilers of episode 2 and you can watch the episode once again live on TV at 9pm on Monday.

We all know that Sky can be expensive, so be sure to check out our dedicated Sky TV deals and packages guide to make sure you’re getting today’s best prices and offers.

Option 2: watch on catch-up (for FREE!) on Now TV
Now TV on the other hand has a 7-day free trial, meaning you can catch the first episode without paying a single penny. And, just in time for Game of Thrones, you can get three months of NowTV Entertainment for just £17.99 (25% discount) 

And if you’re out of the country and still want to watch shows from your Sky or Now subscriptions, then you’ll need to download and install a VPN as described above.

Watch Game of thrones season 8 episode 2

Watch Game of Thrones episode 2 online in Canada

The second episode will be airing on Sunday, April 21 at 9pm ET, 6pm PT in Canada on Crave.

You can pay for Crave on a monthly basis or get an annual subscription. Unlike HBO, Crave doesn’t seem to do trials but if you do pay for a subscription, they will throw in one free month.

Prices vary for Crave but you can get packages including HBO from around $20 for the month.

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Watch Game of Thrones episode 2 online in Australia

If you’re trying to catch the second episode as it airs in Australia, there are only two options for you, and that’s either signing up to Foxtel’s cable service or the company’s streaming service, Foxtel Now. Episode 2 will be airing at 11am on Monday, April 22 on  Foxtel.

Like all of the streaming services above, you will have to pay to get a subscription and there are a host of different packages available, but Foxtel Now offers a free 10-day trial if you haven’t already signed up.

Watch Game of Thrones episode 2 online in New Zealand

New Zealand fans have SoHo to go to for season 8, episode 2 of Game of Thrones. The Sky premium entertainment channel will be the place to be. Tune in at 1pm on Monday, April 22 to catch the episode, or catch it at 8.30pm on catch up later the same day.

Unfortunately, SoHo doesn’t do trial subscriptions. So if you don’t already have it you’ll have to dive on in on a TV package or upgrade your current one to a plan with SoHo.

Packages including SoHo start as low as $24.91 a month and go up from there depending on how much you decide to include. 

Watch Game of Thrones episode 2 online in India

Fans in India have probably bagged the best situation of the bunch, with the cheapest service for watching Game of Thrones. Simply log onto Hotstar and sign up for a premium account. This will cost you either ₹299 (around $3) for a month or ₹999 ($14) for an entire year.

Episode 2 of Game of Thrones will be airing in India at 6.30am on the Monday, April 22. Not the best of time slots we know, but after its aired you will be able to find it on catch up throughout the day.

Watch Game of Thrones episode 2 online in the UAE

This might be the best deal you can get to watch Game of Thrones online in the UAE or, indeed, anywhere in the world. Wavo has a spectacular offer for just $2.99 (AED 11) per month to watch the latest season. Each episode goes up at 5am UAE time every Monday, so you can set those alarms and get up before everyone else to enjoy a spoiler-free experience.

What’s more, you’ll also get access to the rest of Wavo’s catalog of entertainment, as well as a selection of live TV channels.

Can I use a tablet as a replacement for my smartphone?

There are two pieces of tech that are arguably vital for a connected existence in the modern world; smartphones are part of our daily routine, as a tool to communicate with the wider world (as well as serving as a portable entertainment device), while for many, a laptop or computer is crucial for work.

Tablets are meant to fit both these tasks – they’re portable like smartphones and share the same operating systems, but they’re large enough to comfortably run word processors and spreadsheets like a computer.

But can you actually use a tablet as a replacement for a smartphone? To find out I locked my smartphone away, and spent a few days using my iPad (2017) as my only form of portable tech. 

Image 1 of 2

I traded in my glorious Huawei P30... Image credit: TechRadar

I traded in my glorious Huawei P30… Image credit: TechRadar
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...for an older iPad (2017)

…for an older iPad (2017)

When I’m commuting, I always use my phone to stream music or podcasts on Spotify, but since my tablet had to go in my bag rather than my pocket, my headphone cable couldn’t reach it. So, I walked to work in silence, sans tunes, and sans casts.

I say silent, but my music would normally allow me to ignore the horrible sounds of London’s Euston Road, so I swapping my smartphone for a tablet made me more in-tune with my surroundings – which wasn’t a good thing.

Taking the London Underground was a whole different story however – while previously I’d squinted at ebooks or Netflix shows on my phone, with a tablet I had a portable cinema on my lap, and I made sure to make the most of it.

I always loaded up the tablet with the best Netflix shows I could find (which were always longer than my commute, annoyingly), and since people often bring laptops onto the tube I felt no shame having my moderate-sized handheld.

A size above. Image credit: TechRadar

A size above. Image credit: TechRadar

Work hard

Ditching my laptop in order to work on an iPad felt like a real trial by fire, as it’s a very different beast to a laptop. 

Typing on the iPad’s on-screen keyboard took a while to get used to, as when I touch-typed on it like I would a laptop keyboard, I’d often lose letters in words or accidentally swipe down on keys, selecting symbols instead of letters. 

You definitely can’t use tablet keyboards in the same way as physical ones, although my tablet typing pace definitely got closer to my usual keyboard-enabled speed after a while.

The iPad was a blessing when it came to working in different places though – it’s always a chore having to assemble and boot up a chunky laptop when working on the go, but with the iPad I could whip it out and have it running in a matter of seconds.

I also really enjoyed the lack of distraction brought about my ditching the smartphone – the absence of a gadget to fiddle with and browse on meant I was more focused on work and less likely to lose large chunks of time to doing nothing.

Playing it call

The biggest issue with using a tablet as a phone, is that a tablet isn’t exactly a portable texting and calling device  and while that’s certainly true, who really needs to text and call nowadays?

All my communication is done through WhatsApp, emails, Slack, video calls and actual human face-to-face interaction, and I’d estimate that I only make or receive one phone call a week.

That’s not a lot, and after my tablet-exclusive time I didn’t have a single missed call or text, which shows how unimportant these phone features have become to me (of course I had WhatsApp calls and messages, but I rarely if ever dip into my phone contract). 

Who texts now anyway? Image credit: TechRadar

Who texts now anyway? Image credit: TechRadar

Using a tablet did reduce my communication in one major way, as the inability to whip out my phone and scroll through apps meant I spent a lot less time on social media – but I’d say that’s actually a good thing, and I spent more time on non-phone activities and real-life conversations.

Play hard

I’m a big mobile gamer, and have been known to disappear into a quick game from time to time of something light like a puzzle game or sometimes heavier fare, like PUBG Mobile.

Having an iPad didn’t change that, but it was like playing a HD remaster of a childhood classic – the bigger screen made games play quicker, look better, and feel more immersive. 

For the few days my tablet was my only piece of portable tech, I probably played more games than I usually would on my phone, because the experience was more like playing on a console with a big TV screen.

The iPad was superior for all kinds of media too – as I’ve already said it was like having a portable theatre for watching content at all times of day, so much so that sometimes I’d stay in bed to watch Netflix instead of making my way to the living room TV (I have a very active lifestyle, I know).

Doesn't exactly blend in, but a great speaker anyway. Image credit: TechRadar

Doesn’t exactly blend in, but a great speaker anyway. Image credit: TechRadar

Similarly audio quality was great – I love using my smartphone as a speaker when I’m cooking, cleaning or showering, and the audio quality on my iPad was better that on most phones I’ve used.

What did I miss?

I quickly got used to not having a phone, but there were a few things I did miss about my smartphone.

I’ve recently got into smartphone photography, but the iPad (2017)’s 8MP camera, and its massive footprint, didn’t exactly lend itself to taking photos.

One of these is better than the other, try and guess which. Image credit: TechRadar

One of these is better than the other, try and guess which. Image credit: TechRadar

Flicking through social media, games and work apps while in bed wasn’t very easy with a tablet that weighed double that of a phone, and I dropped it on my head multiple times while trying to have a leisurely browse.

Some apps that work great on phones aren’t optimized for tablets either, and they looked pretty horrible with tiny windows on a massive screen.

Overall though, I quickly forgot what it was like to use such a small and dainty device like a smartphone as my regular handset, as my tablet all but consumed my life, and its lack of portability meant I spent way less time looking at screens and way more time staring into the distance instead.

I’d really recommend putting down your phone once in a while to see if a tablet is good for you – of course that’s a big ask, what with the price of tablets, but if you’re looking for an upgrade from your old phone, maybe a tablet is the way to go.

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These Google Pixel 3 XL deals beat everything else on the market

For the past couple of months we’ve seen Google Pixel 3 deals drop in price to quickly become the budget flagship of choice. But while the camera phone extraordinaire has been enjoying cheap bills, its older brother, the Google Pixel 3 XL has refused to budge in price – until now.

Popular mobile phone retailer Mobiles.co.uk has taken the Pixel 3 XL and cut the hefty price tags. Offering two 5GB data Vodafone offers, costing £24 a month or £26 a month with differing upfront costs. Upgrading to the bigger model Pixel 3 doesn’t have to suck the life from your bank balance right now. 

You can see both of these offers below with their exact costs. Or if a Google device doesn’t quite fulfil what you need from a phone, check out our guide to the best mobile phone deals.

These unbeatable Google Pixel 3 XL deals in full:

Google Pixel 3 XL on Vodafone | £90 upfront (with 10OFF code) | 5GB data | Unlimited minutes and texts | £26pm
If you use our exclusive code 10OFF at the checkout, you’ll only have to pay £90 upfront for this deal. Follow that up with £26 a month bills and this deal looks more like a regular Google Pixel 3 deal instead of the larger XL kind. You even get 5GB of data each month, a healthy amount. Total two year cost is £714
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Google Pixel 3 XL on Vodafone | £125 upfront (with 10OFF code) | 5GB data | Unlimited minutes and texts | £24pm
Rather pay less each month and overall? It will require a £35 boost to the upfront cost. But after that, you’re only paying £24 a month which makes this the best value Google Pixel 3 XL deal we’ve seen in a very long time…possibly ever! Total two year cost is £701
View Deal

Why choose a Google Pixel 3 XL?

Google has built up a reputation as the best camera phone on the market and it really doesn’t disappoint! Offering unique camera software to best the rest of the market, snaps from this phone are not easy to compete with.

Combine that with Google’s clever AI features, powerful processor and competitive battery life and you’ve got a phone worth far more than the prices you’ll see above.

Read our full Google Pixel 3 XL review here

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The Xbox One S All-Digital Edition – why pay more for less?

While the shift from physical media has changed the world of music, movies and PC gaming in recent years, console gaming has been a bit more stubborn. After much speculation though, Microsoft is finally trying to give us a not too subtle push towards a digital-only marketplace for our games with the imminent release of the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition. The thing is, you’d be a fool to buy into it at this time.

PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo fans have always been quite vocal on reasons for fearing a digital-only future, and as Deals Editor of TechRadar, I can see why. And nostalgia for a collection of physical games doesn’t really fit into it as much as it used too either.

Quite simply, it’s all about the prices for both hardware and software. Microsoft (and plenty of other publisher partners) haven’t quite grasped the concept of fair pricing for digital games and now the hardware seems to be following suit. And when you look at the overall bang for your buck and game-buying options delivered by the new Xbox One S All-Digital Edition, it’s an underwhelming piece of hardware, representing poor value for money.

The Xbox One S All-Digital price

When considering a digital-only console, it needs a hook to really tempt us away from the traditional disc-based versions. There are at least a few bundled games to get you going in Minecraft, Sea of Thieves and Forza Horizon 3. But how about some technical improvements inside promising slightly quicker loading, or less power consumption? Getting rid of a the disc-drive would surely provide an opportunity to reimagine the chassis of the console for a more compact design too of course? Yeah, you’re getting none of that. 

The new Xbox just has a forlorn blank white space where the disc slot used to be, effectively gagging your gaming options for a huge back-catalogue of games and blu-rays. And why bother with expensive redesigns, when you can spend 30 seconds in PhotoShop? It worked out ok for Deadpool after all…

Image credit: 20th Century fox

Image credit: 20th Century fox

The Xbox One S All-Digital Edition will cost $249 in the US and £199 in the UK. Microsoft claims that’s cheaper than the $299 MSRP / £249 RRP of the current S model, which is technically true. But decent retailers, ones that you’d have to be seriously unlucky to be unaware of, haven’t charged those prices for a long, long time. 

Before all the digital-only console rumours really starting emerging over the last few months, the Xbox One S had already become one of the best-priced gaming consoles on the market as Microsoft discontinued the older 500GB models in favour of making the 1TB one the new standard, while keeping the prices the same – the 1TB models used to be $50/£50 more expensive.

At the time of writing, over on our Xbox One deals (UK) page you could pick up a standard 1TB Xbox S, a digital copy of The Division 2 and a physical copy of Forza Horizon 4 for just £209.99 at Amazon. And it’s not a rare sight to see the console on its own go for around £190. Over on the Xbox One deals (USA) guide you’ll find highlights from just $199 including either Minecraft or Battlefield V. And don’t forget it’s only April, a time of year when console deals are usually a bit, well, awful.

To say goodbye to discs, or more precisely having the option of using discs at least, Microsoft needs to really up its game with a better deal. So naturally, for basically the same amount of money (or less!), we’d certainly advise picking up the regular Xbox One S, instead. 

Why rob yourself of the opportunity of buying a physical disc when you spot a bargain online or at your local store for both new and pre-owned games? Or maybe you’ll want to play both regular and 4K blu-rays (the Xbox One S is a very reasonably-priced 4K blu-ray player). Even if you love the idea of a clutter-free disc-free future, there’s zero incentive to shut off the past with the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition at the current price.

xbox game pass prices deals

The Xbox Game Pass could make this interesting…

Before the initial Xbox One S All-Digital announcement was revealed (and priced), I was actually intrigued to see what we’d get as Microsoft has been absolutely killing it lately with its not so secret weapon – the Xbox Game Pass.

Like many for the current console generation cycle, the PS4 is my main gaming machine, while my Xbox One would have been slung on eBay a long time ago if delivering heavy boxes and dealing with randos on the selling site wasn’t such a hassle. I haven’t bought a physical game for it since Rise of the Tomb Raider and Quantum Break before that, with only a a steady supply of Xbox Live’s Games with Gold and the need to finally finish the backwards-compatible Fallout: New Vegas giving me any reason to turn it on. And then I tried the Game Pass free trial.

This is as close as we’ve ever got to a genuine ‘Netflix for Games.’ Sure you download titles rather than stream them, but given how much broadband speeds can vary, not to mention game-streaming is much more data-intensive than movie streaming (we’re still hyped for Google’s upcoming Stadia service though) that’s totally fine for us as once a title is on our hard-drives we never need to dread a buffering pause. 

The clearest comparison to Netflix though, in addition to a wide choice of nearly 200 titles now, is the value. At $9.99/£7.99 a month (or less if you buy a larger amount upfront in a deal) it simply wipes the floor with any of the rival gaming subscriptions services, especially Sony’s laughably over-priced PlayStation Now. Add in the fact that Microsoft has been adding its latest exclusives to the service, on the day of release no less, and it’s one of the best gaming deals we’ve ever seen. Which is why it’s baffling to not see the console released with a free six or 12-month subscription at this price. 

The other elephant in the room though when looking at digital-only consoles is the outrageous pricing for new games on digital stores. When a new game is released on disc, you’d generally expect to pay $60/£40 for it, maybe a bit more for the likes of Red Dead Redemption 2 or the newest FIFA. Take yourself over to the PSN and XBL stores on your console and you’ll find a trap for the overpaid and uninformed. 

Although we have to admit the pricing disparity is more of a UK issue nowadays as standard versions of digital version of the games regularly cost £60 compared to £40 for a physical version. In the US, things have improved and we’re more used to seeing $60 for both physical and digital versions. But still, shouldn’t digital games be cheaper than physical ones? We’ve been asking that question for years though.

Physical copies of games of course carry extra value in that they can be resold by the buyer and prices drop on them much sooner than digital thanks to the more open and competitive retail landscape. PC gaming is pretty much all digital now, but even with Steam’s dominance in the digital marketplace, there are at least other stores selling game keys too, ensuring at least some competitive pricing on the scene. 

Could the all-digital Xbox One be a good option though?

If you already have a PS4, but have fancied an Xbox One for a while, the All-Digital Edition could potentially be worth a look. The lack of a physical disc-drive isn’t as much of a concern when you can still buy discs for your PS4, and the small number of exclusives on Microsoft’s platform are available quite cheaply in digital format, or are found on the Game Pass. And quite simply, if you have no intention of buying the Game Pass, then I see little reason to pick up this console. 

But still, I can’t recommend this console as things stand today. You save no money and it’ll cost you even more than the disc version at most stores stores. But let’s not forget though, the Black Friday deals are coming.

This will give Microsoft the opportunity to price the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition at at a level it should have been from the start. Honestly, we want to see this for $150/£99 to really tempt us to going all in on digital. And even then, it probably won’t cost much more to get a Black Friday discount on the disc-based version.

Nobody knows your buying habits better than you though. We just want you to get the best bang for your buck. So even if you’ve already stopped buying physical games, we’d still wait a while for the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition to drop in price.

(Image: © Xbox)

How it could affect the next console generation?

Microsoft has fallen Sony behind this generation. The Xbox One consoles have undersold compared to Sony’s runaway machine. The exclusives have been few and far between and recent ones like Sea of Thieves and Crackdown 3 have turned out to be disappointments not worth the long wait. It didn’t help that the messaging was such a disaster before the Xbox One even launched – remember the always-online/no preowned fiasco? Oh and forcing the ‘essential’ Kinect camera on gamers made for an overpriced launch that made the decision even easier for gamers.

Xbox Game Pass is Microsoft’s hottest innovation in years though and the more members it can build up now, the better its chances of making gamers consider the Xbox Two, instead of a PS5 if they know there is going to be an affordable service to give them lots to play on the console. 

A super low price on the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition right now would have given Microsoft a chance to show off to gamers how strong the company’s future is looking and urge them to stick with Microsoft next-gen. We can only hope that by the time this disc-less console reaches an attractive price point we haven’t lost interest as we may be too busy saving our cash for a PS5 or Xbox Two if this year’s E3 convinces us the next-gen consoles are coming next year. 

A discount announcement during E3 week could make things much more interesting though – don’t make us wait until Black Friday, Microsoft. For now though, we’ll keep you updated on the latest prices for all three versions of the Xbox One console via our deal pages below. And be sure to bookmark our E3 page too for all the latest news as it happens live from LA.

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Leaked case dummies give us another look at the iPhone 11 models

The number of rumors and leaks we’re getting on the iPhone 11 continues to grow: yesterday we heard some new analyst predictions and today we’ve got some new case dummies to examine.

Shared on social media and reported by SlashLeaks, the dummies look like they’ve been manufactured to help case designers get ready for the new batch of phones in September.

iPhone 11 leak

iPhone 11 leak (credit: SlashLeaks)

If these enclosure models are genuine – and there’s always an “if” with a leak like this – they don’t tell us much we don’t already know, but they back up previous rumors.

There are indeed “iPhone XI” and “iPhone XI Max” versions, supposedly 6.5 inches and 5.8 inches in terms of display dimensions. What we don’t get a look at here is the follow-up to the iPhone XR, but who knows how Apple will label that.

What we think we know so far

The triple-lens rear camera setup that we’ve heard so much about is in evidence again, so it looks a good bet that this is indeed the way Apple’s going this year.

All will be revealed in full in September – like last year, the rumors suggest three iPhone 11 models will be on show, with three different screen sizes.

Two-way wireless charging is something that Apple is being tipped to introduce to the iPhone range in 2019, while we’ve also heard unofficial whispers that the battery is going to get significantly bigger too.

On top of all that you can expect the usual bump in speed and performance as Apple tries to keep pace with rival handsets, including the Google Pixel 4.

Via AppleInsider

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Flagship phones have gone completely mad and it’s all our fault

I can’t watch it again. I just can’t. Won’t. You can’t make me. Please.

I don’t care about the Samsung Galaxy Fold’s inconvenient, well, ‘fold’ down the center of its magic expand-o-screen. Or that some other reviewers’ Folds reportedly broke after just a few days. Or that it’ll cost nearly two grand and is a bit fat. It’s the “Galaxy Fold: Unveiling” video on Samsung’s official YouTube channel that’s squelching my adrenal gland like a spider choke-holding a satsuma. 

We begin in darkness. Then, the eerie gloss of some… thing fades into view. A woman starts singing: “Come with me, and you’ll be, in a wooorld of pure imagination” – but in that sort of creepy lullaby voice that’s best juxtaposed with footage of a serial killing clown sharpening his tools or shaky-cam footage of a zombie outbreak. Bursts of static. People screaming. “Come with meeee…” The camera falls sideways. The screen cracks. A wailing man is dragged out of shot by tearing, grasping hands. Buy Samsung.

It’s terrifying. It’s also mad. Brad-Pitt-Chanel-advert mad. “We didn’t just change the shape of the phone. We changed the shape of tomorrow,” Samsung proclaims. You changed Friday? Into what? A cube? What else did you do? I wasn’t there for the Fold’s announcement, but I can imagine the Brand High Priest onstage with his hands raised addressing the flock. “We didn’t just create a folding phone. We deleted Tuesday,” he declares. One seventh of the audience immediately disappears. The rest are on their feet, shouting in tongues, applauding and rending clothes.

The video ends with a hashtag imploring us to, “#DoWhatYouCant”. Which I can only interpret as, “buy our unaffordable phone”. But I haven’t had time to check that with the auguries yet.

The Galaxy Fold launch event. (Image Credit: Samsung)

The Galaxy Fold launch event. (Image Credit: Samsung)

Hashtag hypnotism

Apparently, this is what it takes to sell a flagship smartphone in 2019. It’s the natural end-point of Steve Jobs’ coming-down-from-the-mountain Apple press conferences (often with literal tablets). You can’t just sell a phone anymore: you have to spritz it with a magical glamour and Derren Brown people with hashtag hypnotism. It isn’t a phone: it’s a statement. A lifestyle. A talisman of beauty and wealth. That makes phone calls.

And while Samsung’s Fold is the device currently flexing self-consciously in the limelight, all this sparkly nonsense really did begin with Apple. In his book, The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, NYU professor Mark Galloway expertly dissects how Apple leapfrogged the total dominance of its competition to become the ‘it’ brand. It’s a long book and only a quarter of it is about Apple, but basically: Apple didn’t sell phones; Apple sold luxury. Even more basically: Apple sold sex.

“Since men are wired to procreate aggressively, the caveman in us hungers for that Rolex, or Lamborghini – or Apple,” Galloway writes. “And the caveman, thinking with his genitals, will sacrifice a lot (pay an irrational price) for the chance to impress.”

‘Irrational’ barely starts to cover it. Today, the most expensive iPhone you can buy – the iPhone XS Max, with 512GB of storage – costs one-and-a-half-thousand pounds ($1449, AU$2,369). The first iPhone, which launched in 2007, cost £269 ($599 in the US for the 8GB model). 

Which, if you adjust for inflation, might help take your mind off the fact you just spent £1500 on a telephone. Like an eighties Wall Street tycoon. Or a Kardashian. Or Donald Trump.

The iPhone XS Max is big in size and price. (Image Credit: TechRadar)

The iPhone XS Max is big in size and price. (Image Credit: TechRadar)

What do you get for your £1500 with the iPhone XS Max? The Apple website simply can’t contain itself. It doesn’t have videos: it has “Films”, describing in nebulous buzzword-ery just what each model will deign to provide for your money. 

Technologically speaking: smartphones are done. We’ve finished them. We can stop now.

You get surgical-grade stainless steel (as you’d expect from a phone that’s just gouged your eyes out), an “Intelligent A12 Bionic” chip with a “Neural Engine” (either an upgraded processor or one of those eggs that trap people in virtual reality in Black Mirror), and wireless charging. What’s that? Does the outside use an advanced physical vapor deposition process for colors and reflectivity? Um, of course it does, grandad. Why else would it cost so much?

And therein lies the rub. Right there, in the messianic advertising rubbish. It’s not technological breakthrough that’s driving every major brand to release more blindingly flash smartphones year-on-year. It’s us. The cavemen. And our throbbing caveman genitals. Because the truth is, technologically speaking: smartphones are done. We’ve finished them. We can stop now.

Top Trumps

Remember Steve Jobs’ insistence that the iPhone would always have a 3.5-inch screen, because that was the “perfect size for consumers”? Well, OK, he was wrong about the number – but Apple (along with everybody else) does since seem to have settled on a new “perfect”, which hovers somewhere around six inches. 

Until we evolve bigger hands, six inches just is about the right size to hold comfortably. You can make bigger phones – the XS Max, the Galaxy Note 9, for example – but you’ll reliably sell fewer of them than those phones which conform to the post-Jobsian standard. 

And if you go too big, then you’ve stopped making phones and started making tablets. Which is fine. Unless you’re a company that already makes tablets, in which case you’ve added yourself to your own list of competitors.

So, what else can you tweeze into your flagship smartphone to justify both a high price and the mandatory twelve-month update? Well, that £1500 iPhone XS Max managed to swallow 512GB of storage. Which would totally hold all your music and TV shows and films (proper films, Apple – not ones of models taking photos on sand dunes for some reason). Or at least it would, if Apple wasn’t simultaneously pushing Apple Music and Apple TV Plus, which covers all three of the above – as do Netflix, Amazon Prime, Google Music, Spotify and so on.

Resolution? That can always go up, right? Right. Except, again, screen size can’t. So sooner or later, you inevitably reach the point where the human eye can’t tell the difference between one screen’s clarity and another, even if one is technically 1000 times sharper. And unless you’re projecting the contents of your Instagram feed onto a field from a circling blimp, the same goes for camera resolutions.

Do you  project the contents of your Instagram feed onto a field from a circling blimp? (Image Credit: TechRadar)

Do you  project the contents of your Instagram feed onto a field from a circling blimp? (Image Credit: TechRadar)

(Image: © TechRadar)

So, what are you actually selling when you launch/unveil/conjure a flagship smartphone today? Numbers, mostly. 512GB of this. 20MP of that. Words, too: “bionic”, “neural”, “bokeh”, “surgical”. Not technically meaningless – just meaningless in the practical sense. 

Small incremental increases, year-on-year, in what boils down to an incredibly expensive game of Top Trumps. The digital equivalent of those diver’s watches that can survive depths that would crush a human torso into giblets for isopods.

Or, you can make a phone that folds. Or rolls. Or makes toast. It doesn’t really matter – so long as your audience is just a bunch of horny cavemen playing Top Trumps. It’s only if those cavemen ever put your new phone, your last phone and a print-out of their bank statement next to each other that you have worry about being clubbed.

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