Microsoft Debuts Acer-Made Mixed Reality HMD Dev Kit

We’ve been waiting for solid details from–well, from anyone–about the inexpensive VR HMDs that are supposedly coming from several PC makers. Today at GDC, Microsoft announced that an Acer-made HMD dev kit bearing the ungainly title of Acer Windows 10 Mixed Reality Development Edition is nigh.

We first learned that several PC makers were planning to build VR HMDs (at the probably not-so-gentle-prodding of Intel and Microsoft) around Computex 2016 time, and at WinHEC, we learned more about the range of specs to expect from the upcoming HMDs and the PCs that will support them.


We were a little surprised that we saw only one prototype HMD at CES–from Lenovo–but now there’s one about to hit the wild in the form of the aforementioned Acer HMD dev kit.

It will offer a resolution of 1440×1440 per eye (706ppi) on LCD displays with a refresh rate of 90Hz. It has built-in audio out and a 3.5mm mic jack, and you can connect it to your PC via a single HDMI 2.0 cable (for the display) and a USB 3.0 cable (for data). Also note that this appears to offer some semblance of mixed reality.

The “phased rollout” of these dev kits, starting with those who received a “golden ticket” for attending the Windows Mixed Reality session at GDC, will begin later this month. The kits include Acer’s HMD as well as “documentation and access to Windows 10 Insider preview builds and the software development kit (SDK) to enable developers to build mixed reality applications.” Microsoft said in a blog post that it plans to bring MR to more devices in the future:

We’re also excited to share that Windows Mixed Reality experiences will light up on other devices over time, beyond desktop and Microsoft HoloLens. Our plan is to bring mixed reality content to the Xbox One family of devices, including Project Scorpio, in 2018.

For now, those are the only details we have available. Microsoft will start sending out the dev kits “soon” to content creators. As before, the company stated that we should expect to see devices like the Acer HMD hit the market around the holidays this year, and said it will share more at Build 2017.

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LG G6 vs Google Pixel & Pixel XL

LG has recently announced its new G6 flagship smartphone, one that will no doubt soon be vying for the title of best Android phone 2017. This brings it into competition with some heavyweight rivals, not least of which is Google’s own hardware. So how does the LG G6 size up against our current favourite Android offerings the Google Pixel and Pixel XL? Let’s find out.

See also:

LG G6 vs Google Pixel & Pixel XL: Price and UK availability

With the LG G6 only being unveiled very recently there’s not yet a confirmed release date or price. We suspect that the unit will make it’s way onto shelves around April or May, with the price most likely in the standard flagship range of £500-£600.

The Google Pixel and Pixel XL are both currently available from the Google Play Store and many high street shops. The Pixel comes in two variants, a 32GB model costing £599 and the 128GB model which will set you back £699. The same storage options are available for the Pixel XL but the bigger screen raises the costs to £719 (32GB) or £819 (128 GB).

LG G6 vs Google Pixel & Pixel XL: Design

LG has been on something of a design odyssey in recent years. First there was the Flex, with its curved body and screen, then the LG G4 arrived with leather back plates – which we thought were pretty cool – and things changed once again when LG revealed the G5 and it’s modular construction. So what wild innovations come with the G6? Well, it’s actually pretty normal.

lg g6 vs google pixel and pixel XL

lg g6 vs google pixel and pixel XL

The body features a solid aluminium frame with gorilla glass adorning the front and back. This gives it the air of a large iPhone 4S, very large in fact. Whereas Apple’s 2011 offering featured a 4-inch screen, which was respectable for its day, the world has moved on considerably in this area. In 2017 Android phones are expected to offer large screen real-estate and the G6 does that in abundance with a 5.7-inch Quad HD display.

LG has kept the unit down to a hand friendly size (148.9 x 71.9 x 7.9mm)  by reducing the side bezels to almost nothing and slightly curving the display edges. The G6 is also taller than normal smartphones, which gives the display an 18:9 aspect ratio rather than the more standard 16:9.

You won’t find a home button on the front of the G6 as LG opted long ago to follow the pure Android path of software buttons on the display. There is a power/lock button on the back of the unit though, which also doubles as a fingerprint sensor, plus the left side is adorned with volume controls. The only ports on the G6 are the SIM tray, 3.5mm headphone jack (Glory be!), and SD card slot, and a fully waterproof USB-C charging port.

Google’s first stab at smartphone hardware, aside from the Nexus program that saw the search giant collaborate with manufacturers including LG, is a definite success. The Pixel and Pixel XL share identical internals, only differing in their size and displays.

lg g6 vs google pixel and pixel XL

lg g6 vs google pixel and pixel XL

The Pixel is the smaller of the two, boasting a 5-inch Gorilla glass 4 AMOLED display. Just like the LG G6 there’s no Home button on the front but you will find a fingerprint sensor around the back. The body is mainly a smoothly finished metal chassis except for the upper third of the back which is glass. It’s an aesthetic choice rather than functional one and divides opinion on whether it adds much to the styling of the unit. Measuring in at 143.8 x 69.5 x 8.6mm it’s a comfortable device to hold in one hand, although the slippery nature of the construction means a case is a good idea.

The flanks are home to power and volume buttons as well as the SIM card tray, but unlike the G6 there is no option for an SD card. A USB-C charging port is becoming the defacto choice on most phones these days and the Pixel variant supports fast charging that Google claims will give you seven hours of battery power after just fifteen minutes of being plugged in.

As we said, the Pixel XL features the same design with the only deviation being the larger chassis size (154.72 x 75.74 x 8.58mm) that’s needed to host the 5.5-inch AMOLED display.

See also: Google Pixel vs Google Pixel XL review

LG G6 vs Google Pixel: Specs and Features

Processors

The G6, Pixel, and Pixel XL all feature Snapdragon 821 CPUs with 4GB of RAM. This should ensure fast performance over the lifetime of the devices.

Storage

Storage is where the units break ranks. The LG G6 offers only 32GB, but this can be bolstered to 2TB due to an SD card slot. The Pixels come in 32GB and 128GB varieties, but without SD card support. So if you’re after lots of storage you’ll either want the G6 or the higher capacity (and priced) Pixel.

lg g6 vs Google pixel and pixel xl

lg g6 vs Google pixel and pixel xl

Displays

All of the devices have beautiful, crisp displays, with the G6’s huge 5.7-inch Quad HD panel delivering a 2880×1440 with 565ppi. This means you can expect images and text to look pristine. The Pixel is no slouch but its 5-inch AMOLED display offers a lower 1920×1080 resolution with 441ppi. Of course the smaller screen size means you need less pixels per inch to look as sharp, so it still produces a fine rendering of content. Moving up to the Pixel XL you get a 5.5-inch AMOLED display with a 2560×1440 resolution and 534ppi that’s much closer to that offered on the G6. Basically any of these devices will provide you with an excellent viewing experience.

Cameras

LG has fitted some decent cameras to its recent devices and the G6 has  Dual 13mp optics that should produce high quality images. The dual nature means you can either have 125-degree wide-angle lens, or a standard angle with optical image stabilisation. LG has also said that you’ll be able to zoom between the two, but we’ve not been able to test this feature so far. The G6 can record 60fps HD video too, or Ultra HD at 30fps.

lg g6 vs google pixel and pixel XL

lg g6 vs google pixel and pixel XL

 

Google’s Pixel phones have excellent 12.3mp cameras that produce stunning results. The focussing is handled by fast laser and phase detection, while the image stabilisation is software based rather than hardware. Initially we had our doubts about this route, but Google has worked its magic and the 1080p 60fps video is very smooth, plus you can also record in 240fps for slo-mo action. It’s less effective in 4K mode though, so if you intend to shoot mainly in this resolution you might want to try the G6.

The front facing cameras are 5mp on the LG, with the Pixels topping this thanks to their 8mp units. All take decent selfies which will be fine for Facebook and Instagram.

Waterproofing

One clear advantage for the G6 is terms of waterproofing. The new LG has been certified IP68, which means it will survive being submerged to depths of up to 1.5 metres for a maximum of 30 minutes. The Pixel and Pixel XL unfortunately don’t have waterproofing, so any dips in the pool will likely prove fatal.

Battery life

Battery life isn’t a fair comparison, as we’ve not spent any time with the LG G6 yet. On paper though the 3300mAh unit should get users through the day. The Pixel can go all day thanks to its 2770mAh battery, while the 3450mAh version in the Pixel XL is not only larger than the LG unit, but should also benefit from Google’s optimisations when running pure Android.

LG G6 vs Google Pixel: Software

With the Pixel range Google has moved into the hallowed space previously occupied by Apple, in that the hardware and software are all created by one company. This means Pixel users will benefit from the latest version of Android, fast updates, alongside dedicated Google apps such as the useful Google Assistant that is at the heart of these devices. There’s no bloat on the Pixel or Pixel XL, just Android as Google thinks it should be experienced, and we find ourselves agreeing with them.

lg g6 vs google pixel and pixel xl

lg g6 vs google pixel and pixel xl

LG has overhauled its Android skin to take advantage of the G6’s taller 18:9 ratio display. This means all of the bespoke apps work well with the new design. The latest Android 7.1 version underlies everything, and LG has a decent track record of keeping up to date with newer versions when they come out. It won’t stay as current as the Pixels, but it won’t be too far behind either.

See also: LG G6 hands-on review

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Creators Update Improves Windows 10 Update Process, Privacy Settings

Microsoft revealed changes to the Windows 10 update process that promise to make the Creators Update release later this Spring a little more bearable. The company also drew some attention back to several privacy-related improvements coming with the Creators Update that were revealed in January.

Windows 10 has been criticized since its debut for its automatic updates. They often seem to install at the worst times, and the downloads can negatively affect performance to a surprising degree. Microsoft said in a blog post, however, that it’s finally going to address those complaints:

I am excited to share that you will have considerably more flexibility when specifying the best time to install updates on your devices. We are also making other improvements to the update deployment experience in the Creators Update. For example, downloads will have less impact on device performance while they are in progress. You should experience fewer reboots, which will reduce the likelihood that an update will be installed at an inopportune time.

The company will deliver on those promises with a few changes. First is the ability to let Windows 10 know exactly when you want updates to install. If something comes up at that time–it’s hard to predict when important tasks are going to come up–you can “snooze” the update for up to three days. Microsoft is also extending Windows 10’s predetermined “active hours,” during which updates shouldn’t automatically install, to better reflect reality.

Microsoft recommends keeping Windows 10’s default settings intact to make sure the most recent version of the operating system is always installed. That’s sound advice: delaying software updates makes people vulnerable to attacks from which up-to-date Windows 10 users are already protected. But offering more control over this process should help Microsoft strike a balance between intrusive auto-updates and constantly ignored manual updates.

The Windows 10 Creators Update will also help quell concerns about the operating system’s privacy settings. Windows 10 users will be able to decide if they want to share location data with Microsoft; to improve the speech services in Cortana and other apps by sending voice data; to allow diagnostics and app usage data to inform advertisements; and to send all of that information to Microsoft so it can fix bugs and improve its various features.

Microsoft said these changes are just part of its plans to make Windows 10 users feel heard:

This blog post today highlights just a part of our journey to listen intently to your feedback and provide on-going improvement to the Windows experience. In the coming weeks, you can expect to hear more from me about our process for rolling out the Creators Update, how we partner with OEMs to ensure high-quality experiences, and how we utilize your real time feedback and data to ensure the best update experience for all our customers.

The Creators Update is expected to debut later this Spring, but a firm release date hasn’t been made public. Members of the Windows Insiders program have slowly received access to many changes that will debut with the Creators Update, from a picture-in-picture feature and Cortana improvements to better security options and Game Mode, over the last few months.

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Moto G5 vs Moto G5 Plus: What's the difference between Moto G5 and Moto G5 Plus?

Motorola, once a household name and a dominant force in the smartphone industry, it created the first mobile phone in 1983 at a crazy-high £3,000. It kickstarted the mobile telecoms industry, and has since been on a rollercoaster of ups but mostly downs, being forced to look on as Apple and Samsung have stolen its crown as the leading phone manufacturer. Now owned by Lenovo, the company has a reputation to rebuild – something the new Moto G5 can help it with. Reliable and affordable, Lenovo’s Moto G series offers arguably the best phones you can buy on a budget. Also see: Best mid-range phones and Best budget phones

Your budget smartphone purchasing choice is not that simple, however, since Lenovo unveiled two new Moto Gs at MWC 2017: the Moto G5 and Moto G5 Plus. In this article we investigate what is the difference between Moto G5 and Moto G5 Plus and which you should buy.

You’ll also like: Moto G5 review | Moto G5 Plus review | Moto G5 UK release date, price and specifications

Moto G5 vs Moto G5 Plus: Design and build

Unlike the the G4 models, both the G5 and the G5 Plus have a diamond-cut aluminium chassis, which is an obvious move to try and bring the premium feel seen by high-end phones to the G series.

The pair have a similar design, with the G5 Plus fitted with a slightly larger screen size at 5.2in compared to the G5’s 5in display. Both have a full-HD resolution of 1920×1080 pixels. The displays are smaller than those of their predecessors, so should appeal to consumers looking for a less bulky, easier to handle device.

A nano coating also means the Moto G5 and G5 Plus are splashproof. They also each come with a 3.5mm headphone jack and feature a new style of fingerprint scanner that is integrated to the home button.

Moto G5 vs Moto G5 Plus: Specifications

Android 7.0 Nougat runs on the Moto G5 and Moto G5 Plus as standard. One of the new features in the software is the ability to swap between open apps using the home button.

The Moto G5 Plus is likely to be the faster of the two, though we won’t know for sure until we get it into our lab. While the Moto G5 has a 1.4GHz Snapdragon 430 octa-core processor, the G5 Plus has a faster-clocked 2GHz Snapdragon 625 (also octa-core). This means you’ll find the Adreno 505 GPU integrated to the Moto G5’s processor, and the Adreno 506 in the Plus.

Supporting that core hardware in both models is 2GB of RAM, but the Moto G5 Plus can also come with 4GB. Storage is at 16- or 32GB as standard for the Moto G5 and 32- or 64GB for the Plus. You can expand storage with a microSD card in either handset.

As found on the Moto G4, the Moto G5 has the same 13Mp, f/2.0 camera at the rear and a 5Mp front-facing camera for selfies. The Moto G5 Plus has a 12Mp Sony IMX260, f/1.7 camera, which might seem inferior on paper but is actually the same camera as is used by the Galaxy S7. So pretty good then. There’s also 5Mp at the front.

Although NFC is supposedly supported within both models (excluding the US), although the Motorola website says otherwise so stay tuned for more on that.

Moto G5 vs Moto G5 Plus: Battery

During the unveiling, Lenovo stated that both the G5 and the G5 Plus would have good battery life. The G5 sports a removable 2,800mAh battery with fast charging, and is said to offer around two days with normal usage and be able to fully charge within an hour. The G5 Plus battery isn’t removable, but it is higher in capacity at 3,000mAh. It, too, has TurboPower charging, and you’ll get six hours use from a 15-minute charge. Expect a full day’s life with heavy usage.

Moto G5 vs Moto G5 Plus: Price

As you would expect the G series remains affordable. In the UK, the Moto G5 with 16GB of storage will have an RRP of £169, the 32GB model £179. The G5 Plus will cost £259 with 32GB storage. 

Read next: Best new phones coming in 2017

Moto G5: Specs

  • Android Nougat 7.0
  • 5.0in 1920×1080 touchscreen, 441ppi
  • 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 octa-core processor
  • Adreno 505 graphics
  • 2 or 3GB RAM
  • 16GB storage
  • 13MP main camera, LED flash, support for 1080p video at 30fps
  • 5MP front camera
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi (2.4 and 5GHz)
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • 4G LTE
  • Nano-SIM
  • 2800mAh removable battery
  • Micro-USB rapid charging
  • MicroSD support up to 128GB
  • Water-repellent nano-coating
  • 73.0×144.3×9.5mm
  • 144.5g

OUR VERDICT

Lenovo has upped its game once again. After a successful release of the Moto G4 and Moto G4 Plus last year, fans awaited the G5 announcement with baited breath – and I don’t think they will be disappointed. With an updated design and feel to the Moto G, a fingerprint scanner integrated to the home button, and a top-end camera on the Plus model, the Moto G5 Series is a great contender in the budget- to low-mid-range smartphone market. With a faster processor, superior camera and a larger display, if budget is no problem, the Moto G5 Plus is for you. On a budget the G5 will certainly fulfil everything you seek from a modern phone in today’s market, while not breaking the bank.

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Microsoft Releases Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 15046, SDK Preview Build 15042

Windows Insiders in the program’s Fast ring now have access to Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 15046. Besides the usual bug fixes–including one that prevented some devices from updating to the previous release–Build 15046 includes numerous improvements to Cortana and other features.

Cortana has been something of a theme in the last few preview builds. The virtual assistant brought to Windows from the Halo franchise was updated in January with the ability to make people keep their emailed promises (a feature which has since reached the public) and the most recent preview build gave “her” some new animations. Microsoft said that Build 15046 gives Cortana a new, less distracting color in the taskbar and better persistence:

We are experimenting with how we display what you can pick up where you left off across your devices in Cortana. Cortana now proactively shows you apps, files and websites from Microsoft Edge. Previously, this feature only displayed websites from Microsoft Edge in Action Center. Let us know what you think! (Available EN-US only.)

Build 15046 also includes more control over what apps can be installed on a device. This feature, which was actually spotted a few days ago, mimics the settings in macOS that allow people to decide if they want to install software from anywhere, from trusted developers, or from the Mac App Store. Offering the option to restrict apps based on their origin is a quick way to protect Windows users from invasive software without being overbearing.

The latest preview build naturally boasts a number of bug fixes, many of them related to the Microsoft Edge browser, and introduces some problems of its own. Bugs affecting gamers–one that minimizes games when they’re launched and one that causes the Game Bar to flash green during broadcasts–remain unfixed from the previous release. Microsoft said that Build 15046 can also pose a bit of a problem for people who use multiple displays:

Insiders with multiple monitors may encounter an issue where one of the monitors stops rendering (with the exception of the mouse). While rebooting will fix it, you can also resolve the issue via Settings > System > Display under the Multiple displays section, set it to only use the monitor that’s functional, then set it back to “Extend these displays” and the issue should be resolved.

Microsoft also released Windows 10 SDK Preview Build 15042 for developers. The build doesn’t feature any API changes, but it does change the Windows SDK setup executable name, so developers will have to rewrite any scripts used to install new SDKs with the new name. SDK Preview Build 15042 also “will now formally only be supported by Visual Studio 2017 and greater,” Microsoft said, and developers will have to install the Visual Studio 2017 RC.

These preview builds will allow Microsoft to prepare for the Windows 10 Creators Update that’s supposed to debut this Spring. Other recent additions include a picture-in-picture mode, a performance-focused Game Mode, and more.

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HTC Vive accessories hands-on review

HTC Vive accessories hands-on review

How do you make a virtual reality headset even better? Make accessories that open up a world of new possibilities, of course. Here’s our HTC Vive accessories hands-on review including the Vive Tracker, Vive Deluxe Audio Strap and TP Cast. See also: The complete guide to virtual reality.

HTC Vive Tracker

This is by far the most versatile and exciting of the new Vive accessories. This unassuming 85g has bags of potential and we were able to see some of the ways developers have utilised it already at MWC.

In a nutshell, it’s an additional tracker that you can attach to basically anything you want. For example, we tried it strapped onto a huge 3D printed gun to awesome effect.

It also allows for multi-player as shown by ‘Cover Me!!’. While, one person has the full VR experience with the Vive headset, other players can join in with the Tracker attached to a tablet or even a gun with a smartphone mount. Each player can see the others on the screen or in the headset.

Read: The best HTC Vive games and experiences.

HTC Vive Tracker Cover Me

HTC Vive Tracker Cover Me

Get enough Trackers and you can do full body tracking for a more well-rounded a full experience. This is because although the Vive tracking means you can move around in the virtual space, it doesn’t know what you’re body is doing apart from your head and hands.

We strapped Vive Trackers onto each feet and one around the waist meaning you can see your legs in the game. The demo didn’t show off the full-body tracking as well as we hoped as we were made to kick dinosaurs instead of a football which seemed more appropriate.

That said, we’re keen to see what other games and experiences can do with full-body tracking. It will arrive in Q2 but we don’t have a price yet.

HTC Vive Tracker full body

HTC Vive Tracker full body

HTC Vive Deluxe Audio Strap

This Vive headset accessory pretty much does what it says on the tin. The headstrap has an improved design compared to the original making the headset more comfortable to wear. This is largely due to a sizing dial like you’d find on a sports helmet.

When it comes to the audio element, the strap has integrated headphones which takes the faff out of plugging your own in. We found them easy to use, although the audio quality might not be as good your personal cans. This is mainly about convenience.

HTC says the Deluxe Audio Strap will ship in Q2 with a price still to be announced.

HTC Vive Deluxe Audio Strap

HTC Vive Deluxe Audio Strap

HTC Vive TPCast wireless adapter

While the Vive is great, having a fairly hefty cable running from the headset to your PC or laptop can get really annoying and you can even trip over it sometimes.

Well the TPCast is a worthwhile upgrade at $249 if you want to go wireless. The simple gadget means that an extra module sits on top of your head and connects to a battery which simply fits in your back pocket.

HTC Vive TPCast wireless adapter

HTC Vive TPCast wireless adapter

We were surprised at how it didn’t feel particularly heavier than normal but you will only get a limited battery life of one and a half hours. There will be an XL battery which will provide a five-hour battery life available at a later date.

It was also surprising that we noticed no additional lag compared to using the Vive wired.

Read next: Best VR headsets to buy in the UK 2016

OUR VERDICT

We’re still waiting for pricing but the prospect of going wireless as well as features such as full-body tracking and multiplayer gets us excited.

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Do I need a TV Licence? How to save money on your TV Licence

Do I need a TV Licence? How to save money on your TV Licence

The TV Licence fee is about to go up. So what can you do to save money on your TV Licence? Do you even need a TV Licence? We find out.

Save money by cashing in your TV Licence today


By

Paying your TV Licence is expensive. Not paying may be more expensive still Paying your TV Licence is expensive. Not paying may be more expensive still

With so many bills to pay and so little cash to go round, the £145.50 annual requirement for a TV Licence – and soon to be £147 from 1 April 2017 – is by some people purposely overlooked. But this small saving can later cost you dearly: watching live TV without a valid licence is a criminal offence, which can lead to prosecution, a court appearance and a fine of up to £1,000 plus legal costs. Also see: Best TV deals

There’s a good chance that those who don’t own a licence but do watch live TV will be caught out, too. If your home doesn’t have a TV Licence, you are already on the TV Licensing authority’s database; don’t make the mistake of thinking the TV Licensing authority will simply take your word for it if you say you don’t own a TV. Enforcement officers allegedly carry handheld signal-detection devices and have access to a fleet of vans that can quickly identify TV-receiving equipment at targeted addresses.

There are ways you can save money on your TV Licence, of course. If you’re prepared to watch black-and-white TV the licence will cost you a more manageable £49 per year, while over-75s can apply for a free licence. If you’re registered blind or severely sight-impaired you qualify for a discount; those who live in your home can benefit by transferring the licence into your name. If you’re a student, you can also get a refund for the summer months that you spend away from uni. But if you really want to avoid paying the TV Licence fee, just don’t watch live TV.

In the past catch-up TV has been a loophole, and has not required you to own a TV Licence. As of September 2016 you’ll still be able to watch some catch-up TV without a TV Licence, but the law is about to change for BBC iPlayer…

Do I need a TV Licence to watch BBC iPlayer?

As of 1 September 2016, you are now required to hold a TV Licence in order to watch catch-up TV through BBC iPlayer. This change affects only iPlayer – you will still be able to watch catch-up TV from other channels without a TV Licence. Also see: How to watch BBC iPlayer abroad

Previously, you could watch catch-up content on demand without a licence. While it’s still unclear how the BBC will police those without a licence, it’s a sign that the broadcaster is seeing the financial downside to allowing people to watch their content for free.

Right now you simply get a pop-up asking whether you have a TV Licence, but from early 2017 you will need to use a free BBC account. Part of the sign-up process will require inputting your postcode, though the BBC says it won’t be used to enforce the licence fee. 

Proposed earlier this year, culture secretary John Whittingdale said of the amendment: “When the licence fee was invented, video on demand did not exist. And while the definition of television in the legislation covers live streaming, it does not require viewers to have a licence if they watch BBC programmes through iPlayer even if it is just a few minutes after transmission.”

“The BBC works on the basis that all who watch it pay for it. Giving a free ride to those who enjoy Sherlock or Bake Off an hour, a day or a week after they are broadcast was never intended and is wrong,” continued Whittingdale.

Do I still need a TV Licence?

The thought of not having a TV Licence would have been laughable only a few years ago. But, today, with fast broadband available to more of us than ever, a range of online catch-up TV solutions, YouTube and other web video sites, LoveFilm/Amazon Prime Instant Video, Netflix, DVDs and Blu-ray, it’s quite possible to get your telly fix without parting with the annual premium. Potentially, you could even start saving right now, and cash in what’s left of your TV Licence today.

In simple terms, a TV Licence is required to watch only live TV broadcasts, whether that’s on a TV, a PC, a laptop, a smartphone or a tablet. If you are using some sort of time-shifting technology to pause, rewind, fast-forward and record programmes, this feed is still considered to be live and you will need a TV Licence. However, watch on-demand that content an hour or so later and it doesn’t fall under this licensing requirement. Likewise, movies and online video do not demand ownership of a TV Licence.

The number of households that subscribe to broadband but do not hold a TV Licence is estimated to be very small. 

Do I need a TV Licence to own a TV?

No, you do not need a TV Licence to own a TV. However, if the TV Licensing authority doesn’t have you on its database it will send you a reminder to buy a TV Licence. If you are not using the equipment to watch live TV (for instance, it’s hooked up only to a games console or used for playing training videos) you will need to declare this to the TV Licensing authority; it’s possible that an enforcement officer will be sent to verify this is the case. However, according to the authority, one in five people are found to need a TV Licence; if this is you, you could face prosecution, a court appearance, and a fine of up to £1,000 (plus legal costs).

Do I need a TV Licence to watch TV on my smartphone, tablet or laptop?

You don’t need a TV Licence to watch on-demand content on your smartphone, tablet or laptop. However, if the content is live, you will need a TV Licence to watch TV on a mobile device.

Your home’s TV Licence also covers any device that is powered solely by its own batteries, wherever you are. This means, provided that you don’t plug your device into the mains, you can watch live TV on a mobile phone, tablet or laptop inside a property that isn’t covered by a TV Licence, such as when you’re in a shop, bar or restaurant or at work. (You might get sacked, of course, so be careful.)

“As long as the address where you live is licensed, you’re also covered to watch TV outside your home using any device powered solely by its own internal batteries. This includes your mobile phone, laptop and tablet,” according to the TV Licensing authority.

Do I need a TV Licence to watch catch-up TV?

No. Until September you do not need a TV Licence to watch BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, 4oD or any other on-demand TV service. However, any live features within these services, such as iPlayer’s ‘Watch Live’ simulcast option, demand a licence.

From September 2016 you will need a TV Licence to watch BBC iPlayer, but you can continue watching other on-demand catch-up services without one.

According to the BBC, “A ‘live’ TV programme is a programme that is watched or recorded at the same time (or virtually the same time) as it is being broadcast or otherwise distributed to members of the public. As a general rule, if a person is watching a programme on a computer or other device at the same time as it is being shown on TV then the programme is ‘live’. This is sometimes known as simulcasting.

“If you are using the live rewind function to either restart the current live programme or to rewind any live stream for up to 2 hours, a TV Licence is required as you are still accessing the live simulcasts.”

Do I need a TV Licence to watch YouTube?

No, you do not need a TV Licence to watch YouTube videos: you are not watching live TV content as it is broadcast. TV programmes that are uploaded to the video site following their broadcast follow the same rules as catch-up TV.

Do I need a TV Licence to watch films?

A TV Licence is required to watch films only as they are broadcast on live TV. Films enjoyed following their broadcast via on-demand services, and those provided via DVD or Blu-ray, are not subject to the licensing requirement.

Do I need a TV LIcence to watch Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video?

No, you do not need a TV Licence to watch Netflix or LoveFilm. The content provided by these services is offered on-demand; that is, it is not streamed as it is broadcast. If either service starts to stream live TV then a TV Licence will be required.

Do I need a TV Licence to watch TVCatchup?

Yes, you do need a TV Licence to watch TVCatchup. Some confusion may be caused by the naming of this service: rather than catch-up TV, it offers live broadcasts of free-to-air television programmes through a web browser or mobile app on your PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone. Since you are watching this content at the same time as it is broadcast on the TV, a TV Licence is required.

Do I need a TV Licence to watch Sky Go?

Yes, Sky Go demands a TV Licence. Regardless of whether you watch content from the BBC and other Freeview channels or stick to Sky’s own programming, your home must be covered by a TV Licence if you subscribe to Sky. In this case, you will also be covered to watch live content from Sky using Sky Go on your smartphone, tablet or computer – and do so from outside the home, provided the device is powered solely by its own batteries. Although the catch-up content within Sky Go is technically exempt from the licensing requirement, a Sky subscription itself is not.

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