Watch Us Play 'Astroneer' On Twitch At 1pm PST

We’re celebrating another end to the work week with our Twitch stream, which starts at 1 p.m. PST today. This time around, we’re going to play Astroneer, a space-based, early access game from System Era Softworks.

Astroneer puts you on an alien planet, and your job is to survive by scavenging resources and creating your own colony. However, you’ll need to stay alive in order to create your new home. When you’re not tethered to your pod you will continuously lose oxygen, but it’s possible to stay alive far away from home base by building additional tethers. You’ll also have a handy tool that can dig through the ground to find resources, flatten surfaces, or even add to the landscape.

All of the resources gathered will be used to create tools that can help you survive, such as additional oxygen tanks or an attachable solar panel to provide additional power to your digging tool. You can also use them to expand your base. You can create a smelter to process ore, for example, or build a vehicle bay to create buggies so you can travel faster.


As far as early development is concerned, System Era Softworks mentioned on the game’s Steam page that it aims to have a finished version of Astroneer in one to two years. By then, players will be able to create larger and more complex bases and structures, travel to more planets, and find rare items. For now, there are a handful of planets to explore, and a limited number of buildings to create. We’re going to see how far we can get in the two-hour session and try not to die of oxygen deprivation in the process. Wish us luck.

Name Astroneer
Type Space, Exploration, Survival
Developer System Era Softworks
Publisher System Era Softworks
Platforms PC, Xbox One
Where To Buy
Release Date December 16, 2016 (Early Access)

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Steam Gaming Giveaway And Intel Budget Brawl: Community Roundup

The Tom’s Hardware Community is constantly busy. Whether our members are discussing the site’s latest articles and reviews, providing tech support and building advice, or playing the latest PC Games, we have so much great stuff going on that it could make your head spin! Not to worry — Community Roundup is here to let you know the best of what’s going on in the Tom’s Hardware forums on a regular basis.

  • There are seven days left in our latest Steam giveaway. We’re giving away three copies of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons to three lucky members of our community. Experience co-op in a single player game as you guide two brothers through an epic fantasy journey. For your chance to win, head to the giveaway thread in the Tom’s Hardware PC Gaming Forum and enter the raffle or answer the discussion prompt. The Steam Giveaway will run until 6pm ET on Friday, February 24. The game will be awarded to the winners as a Steam gift. A Steam account is required to receive and play the game.

  • The submission period is now over in our Best PC Builds competition, and we’re now accepting votes. Thanks to everyone who submitted a best build. These configurations are not chosen by Tom’s Hardware’s editors. They are submitted and selected by our forum members based on defined pricing tiers. The competition is fierce this quarter, making it difficult to decide which were the best builds in each category. Click here to cast your vote for the best build in each category. For the first time ever, we will now be accepting mini-ITX and SFX format builds in every budget category. You can find links to each of the eight budget categories in our Systems forums or in the Best PC Builds announcement article.
  • Ever wanted to ask one of the big hardware or software giants something directly? How did you design that? Where did that feature come from? What’s in store next? Well, now you have the chance! The Community team is proud to announce a Q&A and XPS 13 Laptop Giveaway with our friends at Dell. Donnie Oliphant, Director of the XPS Product Group, as well as other members of the XPS Product Team will be joining us in our next community Q&A. He’ll be answering your in-depth questions about all of Dell’s current XPS line up. The Q&A starts Friday, March 3rd at 2pm EST, but we’re collecting questions ahead of time. Please submit all questions to our Q&A thread.
  • We just reviewed Intel’s latest entrants for their dual-core budget lineup, the Intel Pentium G4620 and G4560. Although the high-end processors give us little to talk about, Intel’s recent realignment of the Core i3 and Pentium families are a bit more newsworthy. First, the company launched an unlocked Core i3-7350K, and though it doesn’t offer the value we expect from an i3, it’s a fun chip for tuners. What do you think? Does the new line of Intel Pentiums have enough to take the budget CPU crown? Let us know in the article comments or give us your expert opinion in the CPU Forums.

Know of something awesome going on in the Tom’s Hardware community? Brag about it in the comments!

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Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Knock it for the Windows 8 launch. Lay into it for how it debuted the original Xbox One. But, when it comes to the Surface Pro 3, don’t pull out the torches and pitchforks just yet – Microsoft is onto something here.

Over the past few years, the Redmond, Wash. Windows maker has proved to be one of the bolder technology companies, for better or worse. Microsoft clearly isn’t scared of falling on its face in the hope of landing on what in the world tech users want next in this turbulent industry, and the Surface Pro 3 is – well, it just might be an exception.

The company has hammered away at what it considers is a problem with tablets for years. Since the launch of the Surface Pro, Microsoft has sought after the ultimate mobile computing device, one that could usurp the laptop with a tablet-first approach.

All five versions of the Surface Pro 3 are available now in the US, UK and Australia. They are: 64GB / Intel Core i3 ($799); 128GB / Core i3 ($899); 128GB / Core i5 ($999), 256GB / Core-i5 ($1,299), 256GB / Core i7 ($1,549) and 512GB / Core i7 ($1,949).

It’s also available in many more countries, including 25 new markets for the first time.

The Surface Pro 3 is closer than Microsoft has ever been to making good on its mobile computing vision. After over a week with the slate, I’d go so far as to say that the Pro 3 is closer than any laptop-tablet hybrid released yet.

Microsoft was so sure of itself that not only did it directly compare the Pro 3 to Apple’s iPad Air and 13-inch MacBook Air, it gave members of the press pre-release Surface Pro 3 units during an announcement event in New York. Sure, the units have bugs as of this review, but who cares?

“I forced the giving away of the device, just so you’re aware,” Surface team lead Panos Panay told me just after the reveal. “I said, ‘You know what? I want the product in people’s hands.’ ‘But the bugs are still there. They’re not all done until June 20, until it’s on market.’ I don’t care. The purity of the device is still true, and on June 20 there will be more drops.”

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review

One look at the thing might explain Panay’s eagerness to get the Surface Pro 3. It’s no iPad Air, that’s for sure, but the iPad Air isn’t packing a 12-inch display.

Recent developments

Going on three years now, the Surface Pro 3 is by no means obsolete, though it is much harder to come by. That’s because, for a reason unbeknownst to us, the Surface Pro 3 has been completely eradicated from the Microsoft Store online.

The good news is that we’re due for a second major Windows 10 update later this year. In addition to the Creators Update, which is slated for the spring, Microsoft has promised that a “Second Update in 2017” (hopefully a working title) is on its way, though any further details are unclear at this point.

By then, for Microsoft’s sake, we can only wish that the company improves upon its security measures. After being called out by the European Union (EU) for its lack of transparency regarding how it handles user data, Russian security company Kaspersky revealed that it’s making its own desktop OS with security (unsurprisingly) squarely in mind.

Design

Yes, Microsoft bumped the Surface Pro touchscreen from a tiny 10.6 inches to a far roomier 12 inches. In the process, the pixel count has been upped from 1920 x 1080 to 2160 x 1440 The result is a modest boost in pixels per inch – 207 ppi to 216 ppi – given the increase in screen real estate.

More important is Microsoft’s interesting choice in aspect ratio. Rather than sticking with the Pro 2’s 16:9 or glomming onto the iPad’s 4:3, the firm went with a 3:2 aspect ratio. The company claims that, with this aspect ratio, this 12-inch screen can actually display more content than the MacBook Air’s 13.3-inch panel at 16:10. The move was also made to make the tablet feel more like your average notepad when held in portrait orientation.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review

Wrapped in a bright, silver-colored magnesium shell that’s cool and smooth to the touch, the Surface Pro 3 feels premium in every regard. The tablet keeps the trapezoidal shape of its predecessors, but manages to come in both thinner and lighter than before. Plus, the tablet’s upper half is beset by vents on its edges to better dissipate heat pushed out by its fan.

Microsoft also moved the Windows home button to the device’s left side of its silky smooth – though, rather thick – glass bezel. This way, it appears on the bottom of the slate while held upright, calling out, ‘Hey, hold it this way now.’ While it’s no doubt the lightest Surface Pro yet, I’m not sure whether I could hold onto it for an entire subway ride home.

Adorning both sides of the Pro 3 are 5MP cameras capable of 1080p video recording. While stills on either shooter won’t blow you away, the front-facing lens should do just fine for Skype and the weekly video meeting over VPN.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review

This Surface isn’t without its sidekick(s)

A tablet wouldn’t be much of a laptop replacement without a keyboard, and the Surface Pro keyboard was in desperate need of a boost. Luckily, Microsoft sent the Type Cover back to the drawing board, and what came back is the best version yet. From keys with deeper travel and stronger feedback to a wider glass trackpad that actually clicks, nothing was off the table.

But the most important improvement is the brand new double hinge. Equipped with a strong magnet that latches onto the Pro 3’s lower bezel, the Type Cover can now rest with just a portion of it touching your lap or desk. This proved to make writing on my lap much more stable than with previous Surface devices. (Plus, the plush cover comes in five colors: red, blue, cyan, black and purple.)

Tucked beside the Type Cover is also the newly improved Surface Pen. Microsoft made a point of calling its stylus that, because the firm wants it to be seen as and feel like the writing instrument we’ve all grown up with. With an aluminum finish and a useful clicker up top, the Surface Pen is weighted to better feel like a pen. Using Bluetooth and powered by N-trig, the stylus tracks closer to its physical position than ever before, thanks to some major improvements to the Surface screen.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review

The new Surface Pro 3 unarguably has the look and feel of a premium product, so it only deserves to be stacked up against the most luxuriously built tablet and laptop around.

Adobe launched major updates to two of its classic design applications in March. Called Touch Workspace, the apps are available now free of charge to existing Creative Cloud subscribers and Surface Pro 3 owners with the latest versions of Adobe Illustrator CC 2014 and Adobe Photoshop CC 2014 installed. The apps feature a streamlined design user interface that makes it more responsive to fingertips, while optimizing a number of new or existing software tools with touch interaction in mind.

First reviewed: May 2014

Gabe Carey has also contributed to this review

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Nintendo Switch hands-on review

After a late-night reveal by Nintendo, the Nintendo Switch has been showcased in all its glory, boasting a hybrid design that’ll provide both console gaming and on-the-go gaming with a single console. Is Nintendo’s upcoming console something you should get excited about, or is it full of gimmicks? We’ve spent a few days playing with the Switch to find out. Here’s our Nintendo Switch hands-on review. Read next: Best games coming to Nintendo Switch.

Last updated to include our unboxing and setup video, which can be seen above – and read our Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild hands-on to find out what we thought after five hours with the Switch’s biggest game. 

Nintendo Switch review: UK pricing and release date

The Nintendo Switch will arrive on 3 March with a price of £279 and is available for pre-order now from the official store and retailers such as Amazon, Gamestop and GAME. It’s $299 in the US and although there seems to be a fair bit of negative reaction to the price, we don’t think it’s too bad – especially if you consider the console could potentially replace your DS. Also, let’s not forget that Brexit has been driving the price of many tech products up so this might also be a factor.

Yes it’s more expensive than the PS4 but that’s not comparing launch prices. Nintendo could have gone for a budget price, some thought it would be £199, but we’re ok with it. If you can hold on, the price is likely to drop within a few months of the console going on sale.

For £279 you get the main console, the dock, a pair of Joy-Con controllers, a Joy-Con grip (to connect the controllers together), wrist straps, an HDMI cable and AC adapter.

What is a little bit disappointing is the price of accessories, because for starters an extra pair of Joy-Con controllers will set you back a whopping £74. One on its own is £43 and you’ll need to buy wrist straps at £4.99 each to avoid your TV getting smashing from an airborne accident. An extra grip for the Joy-Cons is £25.

If you fancy it, the Nintendo Switch Pro controller is priced at £65 and a spare dock to easily use the Switch with another TV or monitor is a whopping $89.

Read next: Best games console of 2017

Nintendo Switch review

Nintendo Switch review

Nintendo Switch review: Design and build

The new Nintendo is like no other console we’ve seen before and is a little hard to describe in terms of design. That’s because the Switch has been designed so you can use it in various different ways, not just a box that plugs into your TV and stays put.

TV mode

The main part of the device is essentially a tablet so requires docking to turn into a console you play on the TV, hence the ‘TV mode’. Other modes are ‘Handheld’ and ‘Tabletop’ – see below. We used the Switch in console mode for a couple of games like Zelda and Splatoon and moving the tablet in and out of the dock is easy. You can even do it mid-game without pausing if you wish.

With the console docked you can use the Joy-Con controllers attached to the grip as a sort of make-shift traditional controller, or use one each for some multiplayer games. You can also use the Pro controller, of course.

Tabletop mode

Undock the Switch from the, er, dock and don’t attach the Joy-Con controllers and you’ve got Tabletop mode. Thanks to a kickstand on the back of the device, you can easily set it down on any flat surface and get gaming.

This is pretty cool and not something you can do with the PS4 or Xbox One. However, it is a little fiddly in the sense that you’re playing games on a relatively small 6.2in screen so you can’t sit too far away and play comfortably.

It’s also fiddly because the Joy-Con controllers are very small. Holding them sideways to play is awkward because of the size and the way the joystick and buttons are so close together. With one being Left and the other Right, you don’t get the same experience on each using them this way due to necessary button placement.

Handheld mode

The Nintendo Switch in handheld form is what makes the console so unique when compared to the likes of the PS4 and Xbox One. While Sony offers PS4 Remote Play via PC and Mac, and Microsoft offers something similar for the Xbox One, neither can offer a fully fledged portable gaming experience like Nintendo can. When combined with the two Joy-Con controllers, the Nintendo Switch is lightweight and surprisingly comfortable to hold. It resembles a thinner, more attractive Wii U GamePad with a 720p HD output, joysticks on either side along with the standard ABXY buttons and directional pad.

See also: Nintendo Switch vs Wii U review.

The edges of the Switch with Joy-Con controllers are curved, allowing for longer play times without any kind of discomfort – although we have our reservations about the layout of the Joy-Con controllers, which we’ll come to in more detail below. The gaming experience in handheld mode is impressive, as it offers the full game on-the-go without any real compromise apart from the downgrade in screen resolution and a finite battery life.

Joy-Con controllers

The Joy-Con controllers, despite having a rather silly name, are actually impressive – especially the built-in advanced HD rumble motor, which boasts similar levels of precision to Apple’s haptic engine.

This doesn’t only enhance standard gameplay vibrations, but opens a whole new kind of game: in one of the 1-2 Switch mini games we tried, you use the Joy-Con controllers to guess how many ball bearings are inside your virtual box by moving the controllers and feeling the balls ‘roll’ around. This would simply not work with a standard vibration motor, but the motor within the Joy-Con controllers tricked our brains into believing there were ball bearings rolling around inside, and we even managed to guess the right number.

However, the Joy-Con controllers do have their downside – the layout is a little awkward, especially when playing certain two-player games where each person has one Joy-Con controller each. As they’re used as left and right controllers for the main console, the analogue stick and buttons are in different places on each side. While one controller is fairly centred, the other features an awkwardly placed joystick and buttons, making long periods of two-player gameplay a little bit uncomfortable.

Joy-Con grip controller

As mentioned, one of the ways to use the Joy-Con controllers and will be the main way to play when the Switch is in console mode – especially if you don’t buy the Pro controller.

You sort of build it by sliding each Joy-Con controller onto the grip. This creates a traditional style controller that you hold with two hands but it’s quite an odd one. As you can see, it’s very square and although it’s more comfortable than we were expecting, the section in the middle could do with being wider so your hands are further apart.

It’s also a shame that the grip supplied with the console doesn’t charge the Joy-Cons at all, merely holds them in place so you’ll need to think about how you’re going to keep them topped up (Nintendo will only sell a charging grip).

Switch Pro controller & steering wheel accessory

The Nintendo Switch offers a few lesser-known types of controller at an extra cost: the Pro controller, and an accessory that’ll change your Joy-Con into a mini steering wheel for use with games like Mario Kart 8. The Pro controller looks similar to the standard controller provided with the Wii U, offering a gameplay experience similar to other consoles with four bumper buttons, two analogue sticks, ABXY buttons and a directional pad. What is unclear at this time is whether the controller will only be supported by certain games, or whether it’ll have universal game support.

The mini steering wheel for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe edition is much more impressive (sold separately). Simply pop the Joy-Con inside the wheel and it’ll provide you with a more natural driving experience. While the standard Wii U steering wheel was rather unwieldy and awkward to use, we found the new controller to be much more responsive and easy to use – in fact, it quickly became our preferred way to play Mario Kart during our time with the Switch.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the new steering wheel is much smaller than the old one, meaning those with big hands might not be able to hold it with both hands like a normal steering wheel.

Read next: Best upcoming games of 2017

Nintendo Switch podcast discussion

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iPhone 8 price and release date | iPhone 8 features and specs

iPhone 8 price and release date | iPhone 8 features and specs

Forget the iPhone 7, it’s the iPhone 8 you’ll be more interested in. Set for a 2017 release to celebrate the iPhone’s 10th anniversary, here’s what the rumours say about the iPhone 8 UK release date, features and specs.

10 years of iPhone mean one thing: the iPhone 8 should be the best iPhone update yet


By

The iPhone 7 has only been on sale for a while, but all we seem to be hearing are rumours about the iPhone 8. We think Apple might well be holding back some major updates and improvements for the iPhone 8, which – if the rumours are true – will be launched on the 10th anniverary of the first iPhone. Here we round up the rumours about the iPhone 8 release date, price, features and specifications. See also: Best phones 2016.

Hang on a minute, shouldn’t the next iPhone be the iPhone 7s? It still could be. Leaks and more rumours are pointing to not one but three new iPhones, two of which may well be branded as iPhone 7s and 7s Plus models. The main launch, though, would be the flagship, 10th anniversary iPhone ‘8’.

We’d be surprised if Apple goes for that naming convention, however, and other rumours say it  could even be called simply ‘The iPhone’, or iPhone Pro, but for now we’ll stick to calling it the iPhone 8 for simplicity.

Update 24 February: The rumour mill is running at full tilt at the moment, so here’s a summary of what to expect from the iPhone 8:

That’s the main specs covered, but here are the other rumours:

  • The main logic board will be in two pieces instead of the traditional one
  • Apple may move the SIM tray to the bottom edge (this could be to allow room for other internal components or to include a Smart Connector)
  • Quick charging will be supported when using a cable
  • New speaker design could make the phone the thinnest ever
  • It will use an OLED screen from Samsung – read more.
  • Facial recognition in addition to fingerprint scanner
  • Laser sensor for gesture recognition – read more.

The latest video from ConceptsiPhone does a decent job of showing what the iPhone 8 might look like. It’s interesting to see an idea of how the bottom of the display might be used, similar to the Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro.

Find the best Apple deals.

iPhone 8 release date rumours: When is the iPhone 8 coming out?

iPhone 8 UK release date: September 2017 (TBC)

Although still months away, we can fairly confidently predict the iPhone 8 release date. Assuming the annual September announcement tradition continues, the iPhone 8 release date will be in September 2017. However, 2017 marks the 10th anniversary of the original iPhone launch, so we wouldn’t be too surprised if Apple mixed things up a bit (it launched the SE – pictured below – in March).

According to Tech Trader Daily (via MacRumours), Apple might be putting the iPhone 8 into production in June, sooner than expected. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean the launch will be earlier than September given the potentially radical design change.

It’s not necessarily going to be called the iPhone 8, of course, but that’s the name we’re using to keep things simple.

iPhone 8, iPhone 7S, iPhone X or something else? What will the iPhone in 2017 be called?

It seems the name may have been confirmed with an Apple employee referring to the new device by the name ‘iPhone 8’ unprompted when speaking to Business Insider. However, there is another suggestion as Apple Insider claims that Apple could call this year’s iPhone the iPhone X.

As we’ve mentioned, the iPhone for 2017 is slightly harder to predict because it will mark a big anniversary for the smartphone.

The latest rumours are that Apple will release three new iPhone models as part of the main lineup. This could well be the ‘S’ versions of the 7 and 7 Plus, and the extra ‘iPhone 8’, an even more premium flagship with ‘revolutionary’ features.

The Wall Street Journal says: “Apple plans bigger design changes for 2017, the 10th anniversary of the original iPhone. Those changes could include an edge-to-edge organic light-emitting diode, or OLED, screen and eliminating the home button by building the fingerprint sensor into the display, according to people familiar with the matter.

“At a meeting with an Apple executive, one of the company’s China-based engineers asked why this year’s model [the iPhone 7] lacked a major design change in keeping with Apple’s usual two-year cycle. The answer, one person at the meeting recalled, was that the new technology in the pipeline will take time to implement. People familiar with the matter said some features that Apple hopes to integrate into iPhones, such as curved screens, weren’t ready for this year’s models,” it added.

If Apple follows the usual pattern, the iPhone 7 that launched this year will be followed by the iPhone 7S in 2017. The fact that it’s 10 years since the original iPhone means this could all go out the window. Apple will want to do something special to celebrate the occasion so an ‘S’ model, which usually just brings small tweaks, won’t suffice.

It’s pretty much anyone’s guess at the moment, hence, we’re calling the 2017 model the iPhone 8 at the moment but it’s perfectly plausible that the new phone won’t conform to the traditional naming system at all. The iPhone SE (special edition) is already a thing, so perhaps Apple will go with ‘iPhone Pro’, iPhone Anniversary Edition’ or even just ‘iPhone’ – although naming the iPad 3 as ‘the new iPad’ didn’t go down too well.

A report from Nikkei suggested that in 2017 there would be three new iPhone models. It sounded as though we were in for the usual 4.7- and 5.5in models (the regular and Plus), plus a third new ‘Pro’ model with a 5.5in or above curved screen. Its source said the screen would be “bent on the two sides” making it sound like a Galaxy Note 7 rival. Of course, this didn’t happen with the iPhone 7, though it doesn’t mean we won’t see a curved-screen iPhone 8.

Vote in our poll to let us know what you think Apple will name the anniversary iPhone.

iPhone 8 price

We’re speculating for now, of course, as the iPhone 7 has only recently gone on sale. Whether Apple will introduce a price increase for the potentially special iPhone 8 is anyone’s guess. However, the iPhone 7 price jumped up to £599 in the UK thanks to Brexit and we hope that it will stay the same with next year’s anniversary model. However, in light of the latest leaks, the ‘anniversary’ model seems to be an ultra-premium device that could cost more than any iPhone yet. At least one report claims it will be more than $1000 in the US. 

Although one analyst predicts the iPhone 8 will be the best selling model ever – with up to 150m sales – another is worried that following the anniversary edition, Apple will see a possible 10 year slump afterwards.

It is believed that moving to OLED for the iPhone 8 will push up costs as much as $50m for Apple, eating into the firm’s profit margin. Whether the firm takes the hit and keeps the price of the phone the same or not remains to be seen.

iPhone 8 specifications and new features

If Apple does indeed do something special for the iPhone’s 10th anniversary, which is ever more likely from all the leaks, the iPhone 8 will be one which fans will no doubt want to upgrade to on launch day. Could we see the biggest queues ever?

A combination of design and hardware changes will make the iPhone 8 the most radical new iPhone to date, if we are to go by the rumours and leaks.

iPhone 8 screen

It seems certain that the iPhone 8 will have an OLED screen – like the Samsung Galaxy S7 – rather than the traditional IPS tech Apple has used previously. 

A recent KGI report says that it will be a 5.8in screen which will fit into a chassis a similar size to the current 4.7in iPhone and that the phone will have a significantly higher capacity battery.

Here’s a diagram from the report which illustrates how the iPhone 8 will slot into the range:

iPhone 8 rumours - screen OLED

iPhone 8 rumours - screen OLED

As you can see, the screen will have two parts. A 5.15in ‘main’ screen with a resolution of 2,436 x 1,125 pixels and a separate ‘function area’ across the bottom. This is likely to be where the integrated fingerprint scanner will live, and it may operate like the Touch Bar on the latest MacBook Pro laptops.

Whatever turns out to be the case, the screens are coming from Samsung. The Korean Herald reported that a source confirmed the order from Samsung and that – like the screen on the Galaxy S7 Edge – it will be made from plastic and not glass. Typically glass is only used for flat screens, so this is not too surprising.

And  now according to GSMarena, the deal between Apple and Samsung for the screens is now finalised.

The iPhone 8 won’t be the first to have a bezel-less screen. Xiaomi has already launched the Mi Mix, reviewed. It’s a stunning device and the first of a new category of phones with it’s 91.3 percent screen-to-body ratio, according to the firm.

Xiaomi Mi Mix

Xiaomi Mi Mix

Facebook post by Robert Scoble – a well-known tech strategist – reveals new details about the next iPhone. In the lengthy post Scoble claims to have been told that it will be “a clear piece of glass… which will put holograms on top of the real world like Microsoft HoloLens does”. He also says the phone will have an OLED screen and that Apple has 600 engineers working on a next-generation 3D sensor and that the phone will have eye sensors. These will bring “a new kind of interface”. He also says that you’ll “pop it into a headset which has eye sensors on it, which enables the next iPhone to have a higher apparent frame rate and polygon count than a PC with a Nvidia 1080 card in it.”

Plus, he says that new sources revealed we can “expect battery and antennas to be hidden around the edges of the screen, which explains how Apple will fit in some of the pieces even while most of the chips that make up a phone are in a pack/strip at the bottom of the phone.”

These sound like ridiculous predictions, especially the part about the phone being transparent – battery tech is not yet good enough to make one small enough to “hide” – but if true, the iPhone 8 will be a revolution rather than the evolution we’ve seen with the iPhone 7 this year. We’ll continue to update this article as new information appears, but here’s how things stand right now.

This concept image via ConceptsiPhone shows what an edge-to-edge OLED display iPhone might look like:

iPhone 8 concept

iPhone 8 concept

Glass chassis

Jony Ive has wanted to introduce an iPhone which resembles a single sheet of glass for a long time and the 2017 anniversary iPhone could be the one. It’s rumoured that at least one iPhone in 2017 will use a glass body, according to Apple supplier Catcher Technology. Glass on the front and back would make it like a hugely updated version of the iPhone 4S.

This, combined with the rumour that the iPhone 8 will sport an edge-to-edge OLED screen makes things rather interesting.

Allen Horng, chairman and chief executive of Catcher Technology, a key supplier said: “As far as I know, only one [iPhone] model will adopt glass casing next year. I don’t think this move will have an impact on Catcher’s revenue as glass casing still needs a durable metal frame which requires advanced processing technology and would not be cheaper than the current model.”

However, don’t get your hopes up. Although Foxconn – the manufacturer of iPhones in China – has been experimenting with building a glass chassis for around a year, it is likely too early to put it into mass production. Current tooling is all for aluminium chassis and that’s where the expertise and investment is. A switch to glass – or ceramic or some other material – would be such a massive change that there would be far more leaks backing up these rumours. Put simply, we don’t believe that the iPhone 8 will be an all-glass machine.

In-screen Touch ID home button

What’s much more likely is that the home button will be ‘virtual’ in the iPhone 8.  This makes sense, and is surely one of the features of the ‘function area’ in the diagram earlier.

But will Apple ditch Touch ID? Previous rumours say no but another new Apple patent for an “Acoustic Imaging System Architecture” suggest otherwise.

It’s impossible to know what Apple will do, since there are so many patents. One Apple patent shows that the new iPhone’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor, which is usually situated beneath the Home button, could be built-in to the entire display, eliminating the need for a Home button and making room for a larger display without enlarging the overall size of the smartphone.

These rumours seemed pretty far fetched to begin with, but it might just happen. Sonavation recently announced that it has found a way to insert ultrasonic biometric sensors underneath a Gorilla Glass display, still being able to read a user’s fingerprints.

The newly developed tech is “well suited for through-the-glass fingerprinting and specifically architected to deliver advanced security

 and ease-of-integration into mobile and IoT devices” Sonavation’s CTO Rainer Schmitt said.

The company claims that it can even do one better than the existing Touch ID (and most other fingerprint scanners on the market) by being able to scan fingerprints on a finger that’s wet, dirty or oily. Though it’s not clear which devices will be the first to feature this new technology, but we assume it’d either be the iPhone or a flagship Android smartphone.

Another patent has been awarded to Apple for a button which places the fingerprint sensing technology underneath the screen. Named a ‘capacitive fingerprint sensor including an electrostatic lens’, it means the Touch ID fingerprint sensor can work through various layers of the display. 

Apple fingerprint sensor patent

Apple fingerprint sensor patent

Yet another patent, via Apple Insider, deals with the light sensor – the one which adjusts the screen brightness automatically. It’s called ‘Electronic Devices With Display-Integrated Light Sensors’ and explains that having a light sensor can result in an increase in the size and weight of the device so “it would therefore be desirable to be able to provide improved electronic devices with light sensors and displays.”

iPhone 8 light sensor

iPhone 8 light sensor

3D front-facing camera

However, Macrumours says that a JP Morgan analyst claims there will be no fingerprint recognition at all, and that Apple will instead embed a front-facing 3D laser scanner that will be able to accurately recognise your face. This will avoid the problem where Touch ID doesn’t work if you have wet fingers – or the sensor has water on it. He says it will also be more secure, which could lead to more companies – including banks – supporting Apple Pay.

This theory is backed up by Kuo of KGI Securities whose latest report, via 9to5Mac, says Apple will put an enhanced front camera and an IR sensor in order to build up a 3D model of the user’s face.

The report also says that Apple’s 3D algorithms are “years ahead” of Android, and such a feature could be an iPhone exclusive for a couple of years before Android phone makers catch up.

More display rumours

As pointed out by Patently Apple, yet more patents suggest a curved-glass design and also that the sides of the phone could be used for virtual buttons. For example, this could be used for certain controls when the camera app is in use. If true, the phone would rival Samsung’s edge screen features.

iPhone 8 2017 patent curved glass body

iPhone 8 2017 patent curved glass body

iPhone 8 2017 patent active virtual buttons

iPhone 8 2017 patent active virtual buttons

There were also some rumours we heard about the iPhone 7’s screen that never made it to fruition. It’s possible that they could see daylight with the iPhone 8.

Economic Daily News speculated that the iPhone 7 could feature a 3D display, and one that doesn’t require the use of those annoying 3D glasses. The website claimed at the time that Apple supply chain partner TPK is working on a project that could produce a glasses-free 3D display, though we’re not holding out much hope for this as its been done before (remember the LG Optimus 3D?) and has never done well.

There were also some rumours to suggest that the iPhone 7 could have a sidewall display, similar to that found on the Galaxy S7 edge and Note 7. This came from an Apple patent that was published in 2015. The patent hints at a future iPhone with a display that extends onto the sides of the device, providing interactive or touch sensitive portions that give access to slide-to-unlock functionality, music player controls, messaging readout, called ID, system controls and more.

One of Apple’s partners, Japan Display, is working in flexible an foldable screens similar to Samsung and LG. Whether this will end up in the iPhone 8 remains to be seen – it’s unlikely but still interesting. Apple has plenty of patents describing bendable and folding devices, according to TechnoBuffalo.

More details on the screen tech include that Apple is supposedly working on a new generation of 3D Touch. According to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the firm will make it from a thin film in order to introduce enhanced sensitivity – via AppleInsider.

Above concept by Michael Shanks

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IDG Contributor Network: What Google’s lawsuit against Uber means for the future of self-driving cars

Google is suing Uber over some stolen documentation and schematics.

The lawsuit alleges that Uber stole plans for the LIDAR sensors used in Google’s self-driving cars that scan for obstructions and allow the car to steer and brake automatically. Google developed the technology originally but it is now part of their sister company Waymo. (Both are now part of parent company Alphabet.) Google and Waymo found out about the schematics when an employee was wrongly copied on an email from a supplier.

It’s a serious claim, and the demands are clear. Waymo is asking for the stolen documents be returned. It’s 14,000 files or a total of about 10GB of data. Waymo is also demanding that Uber stop development on the self-driving car technology.

In recent months, it’s become clear that Waymo doesn’t intend to actually make a self-driving car, even though prototypes have been driving autonomously around San Francisco and other areas for years. The new plan, which could be a pivot or possibly the intention all along, is to create an operating system used for cars that are developed by automakers like Chrysler, who is working with Waymo and Google on the self-driving Pacifica minivan.

The reason this is a major setback is because Uber was testing self-driving cars with actual passengers in cities like Pittsburgh and Tempe, Arizona. There’s a human driver who keeps a light touch on the steering wheel, but it’s still an aggressive move (in a good way) to see how the cars operate in the real world and not only with professional testers (and no passengers).

More than anything, it’s a setback because there are way too many variables already when it comes to autonomous driving. Tesla is still the leader in making an actual production car that is semi-autonomous, but Uber was attempting to go much further (allegedly by using stolen technology) to go beyond “lab testing” and make robotic driving something that is actually useful and can help us get across town in a way that’s safer and more reliable.

Similar to how an autonomous bus might operate, the idea was to have a fleet of self-driving cars someday soon — within a few years anyway — that drive around a city picking up passengers and delivering them to their destination, all with an app you can use to follow along. There are still a lot of local regulations and insurance issues to work out, and those who signed up to take a ride in the Uber self-driving car had to agree to the obvious dangers.

Now, there are a lot of questions about how this will pan out from here. Uber could have worked partnered with Google and Waymo — all companies involved have bucketloads of cash — or found another company like Cruise Automation (now part of GM). A lot of the complexity of self-driving cars has to do with the sensors that scan the road and the related algorithms that adjust the car steering, speed, and braking to make it all work. There are hundreds or even thousands of variables — nighttime driving, tight corners, congestion, people in the road, rain and snow.

Even if there’s a quick settlement, even if the allegations prove incorrect, and even if Uber emerges somehow without a dark shadow behind them, it’s still a setback for autonomous cars. The technology needs to move forward quickly, not get tangled up in lawsuits.

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Best iPhone apps 2017

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