Toys

Ask Slashdot: Are There Any Good Smartwatches Or Fitness Trackers? 238

"What's your opinion on the current state of smartwatches?" asks long-time Slashdot reader rodrigoandrade. He's been researching both smartwatches and fitness trackers, and shares his own opinions: - Manufacturers have learnt from Moto 360 that people want round smartwatches that actually look like traditional watches, with a couple of glaring exceptions....

- Android Wear 2.0 is a thing, not vaporware. It's still pretty raw (think of early Android phones) but it works well. The LG Sport Watch is the highest-end device that supports it.

- LTE-enabled smartwatches finally allow you to ditch your smartphone, if you wish. Just pop you nano SIM in it and party on. The availability is still limited to a few SKUs in some countries, and they're ludicrously expensive, but it's getting there.

Keep reading for his assessment of four high-end choices -- and share your own opinions in the comments.
AMD

First AMD Ryzen Mobile Laptop Tested Shows Strong Zen-Vega Performance (hothardware.com) 85

MojoKid writes: AMD Ryzen Mobile processors are arriving now in retail laptops from the likes of HP, Lenovo and Acer. With the first CPUs to hit the market, AMD took quad-core Ryzen and coupled it with 8 or 10-core Vega GPUs on a single piece of silicon in an effort to deliver a combination of strong Ryzen CPU performance along with significantly better integrated graphics performance over Intel's current 8th Gen Kaby Lake laptop chips. AMD Ryzen 7 2700U and Ryzen 5 2500U chips have 4MB of shared L3 cache each, but differ with respect to top-end CPU boost clock speeds, number of integrated Radeon Vega Compute Units (CUs), and the GPU's top-end clocks. Ryzen 7 2700U is more powerful with 10 Radeon Vega CUs, while Ryzen 5 2500U sports 8. Ryzen 7 2700U also boosts to 3.8GHz, while Ryzen 5 2500U tops out at 3.6GHz. In the benchmarks, Ryzen Mobile looks strong, competing well with Intel quad-core 8th Gen laptop CPUs, while offering north of 60 percent better performance in graphics and gaming. Battery life is still a question mark, however, as some of the very first models to hit the market from HP have inefficient displays and hard drives instead of SSDs. As more premium configurations hit the market in the next few weeks, hopefully we'll get a better picture of Ryzen Mobile battery life in more optimized laptop builds.
Android

Samsung's Galaxy S9 Will Appear At CES In January, Says Report (venturebeat.com) 41

According to VentureBeat, Samsung is planning to show off its next-generation Galaxy S9 and S9+ smartphones at January's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Some of the information about the devices will be shared at CES, but Samsung is still apparently holding an official launch event in March, as it did this past year for the Galaxy S8 and S8+. From the report: Codenamed Star 1 and Star 2 -- and going by model numbers SM-G960 and SM-G965 -- the S9 and S9+ will feature the same 5.8-inch and 6.2-inch curved-edge Super AMOLED "Infinity" displays, respectively, as their predecessors. While no specific processor was mentioned, it is said to employ 10-nanometer fabrication techniques, which is highly suggestive of the upcoming Snapdragon 845 from Qualcomm (and likely a similar Exynos model for some regions). Besides a bigger screen, the S9+ will reportedly offer more RAM (6GB versus 4GB) and a second rear camera, similar to the Note8. Both models pack 64GB of internal storage, supplemented by a microSD slot, and both leave the 3.5-millimeter headphone jack intact. Regardless of rear camera configuration, both phones orient the elements on the back of the device vertically -- with the fingerprint sensor on the bottom, in acknowledgement of one of the most frequent complaints about all three of Samsung's 2017 flagship handsets. Another change that's sure to be well-received is the addition of AKG stereo speakers. Finally, Samsung plans to introduce a backward-compatible DeX docking station that situates the phones flat and utilizes the screens as either a touchpad or a virtual keyboard.
Medicine

Study of 500,000 Teens Suggests Association Between Excessive Screen Time and Depression (vice.com) 128

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Depression and suicide rates in teenagers have jumped in the last decade -- doubling between 2007 and 2015 for girls -- and the trend suspiciously coincides with when smartphones became their constant companions. A recent study places their screen time around nine hours per day. Another study, published on Tuesday, suggests that suicide and depression could be connected to the rise of smartphones, and increased screen time. Around 58 percent more girls reported depression symptoms in 2015 than in 2009, and suicide rates rose 65 percent. Smack in the middle of that window of time, smartphones gained market saturation.

In Twenge's new study, published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, the researchers looked at two samples: a nationally representative survey by ongoing study "Monitoring the Future" out of the University of Michigan, which is administered annually to 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, and the Centers for Disease Control's Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, a sample of high school students administered by the CDC every other year. (Both surveys began in 1991.) Altogether, over 500,000 young people were included. The study authors examined trends in how teens used social media, the internet, electronic devices (including gaming systems and tablets), and smartphones, as well as how much time they spent doing non-screen activities like homework, playing sports, or socializing. Comparing these to publicly available data on mental health and suicide for these ages between 2010 and 2017 showed "a clear pattern linking screen activities with higher levels of depressive symptoms/suicide-related outcomes and non-screen activities with lower levels," the researchers wrote in the study. All activities involving screens were associated with higher levels of depression or suicide and suicidal thinking, and activities done away from a screen were not.

Iphone

Apple Could Launch Two New Full-Screen iPhones Next Year (theverge.com) 117

Reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo expects to see two new full-screen iPhones next year: one will have a 6.5-inch OLED display, essentially making it a Plus version of the iPhone X; and the other will have a 6.1-inch LCD display, likely making it more like a full-screen version of the current Plus-sized iPhone. Both are said to have the notch. The Verge reports: In his research note, which was reported by MacRumors, Kuo writes that Apple is hoping to "satisfy various needs of the high-end market" by expanding its full-screen product line. At the high end will be the 6.5-inch OLED iPhone; beneath that will be an updated version of the 5.8-inch OLED iPhone X; and finally, the 6.1-inch LCD iPhone will sit below both them. Kuo predicts that the 6.1-inch phone will be priced somewhere between $649 to $749 and be set apart by having a less-dense screen resolution, offering a worse picture. If Apple does introduce a 6.1-inch LCD iPhone, $749 certainly seems too cheap for it to sell at -- the iPhone 8 starts at $699 as it is, and the 8 Plus starts at $799. The 6.1-inch phone sounds like a step up from the existing Plus model, so it would make more sense to sell it for, say, $899, right between a refreshed version of the Plus and a refreshed version of the X.
Science

Your Visual Skills Are Not Correlated To Your IQ (vanderbilt.edu) 201

Science_afficionado writes: Psychologists at Vanderbilt University have conducted the first study of individual variation in visual ability. They have discovered that there is a broad range of differences in people's capability for recognizing and remembering novel objects and this ability is not associated with individuals' general intelligence, or IQ.
Or, as the article puts it, "Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching."
Iphone

Some iPhone X Displays Plagued By Mysterious 'Green Line of Death' (thenextweb.com) 76

Some iPhone X owners are reporting a random green line appearing on their displays. According to The Next Web, "the defect has already started to take on the endearing 'Green Line of Death' moniker." From the report: Several users across Apple forums and social media have reported the error -- I've counted over a dozen accounts, and MacRumors mentions it's read "at least 25" such reports. Oddly, the issue doesn't appear to affect users immediately, only showing up after some time with regular usage. In some cases it alternates with a purple line, for variety. It generally appears towards the right or left sides of the display, and sometimes it simply disappears altogether. Weird. Either way, it appears to be a hardware defect affecting a small number of users, and Apple appears to be replacing affected units. Mac Rumors first reported the issue.
Businesses

iPhone X Costs Apple $370 in Materials: IHS Markit (ihsmarkit.com) 120

Engineers at marketing research firm IHS Markit cracked open the base version iPhone X, which Apple is selling at $999, this week. After preliminary physical dissection, the firm estimated that the iPhone X carries a bill of materials of $370. From their findings: With a starting price of $999, the iPhone X is $50 more than the previous most expensive iPhone, the 8 Plus 256 GB. As another point of comparison, Samsung's Galaxy S8 with 64 GB of NAND memory has a BOM of $302 and retails at around $720. "Typically, Apple utilizes a staggered pricing strategy between various models to give consumers a tradeoff between larger and smaller displays and standard and high-density storage," said Wayne Lam, principal analyst for mobile devices and networks at IHS Markit. "With the iPhone X, however, Apple appears to have set an aspirational starting price that suggests its flagship is intended for an even more premium class of smartphones." The teardown of the iPhone X revealed that its IR camera is supplied by Sony/Foxconn while the silicon is provided by ST Microelectronics. The flood illuminator is an IR emitter from Texas Instruments that's assembled on top of an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) and single-photon avalanche diode (SPAD) detector from ST Microelectronics. Finisar and Philips manufacture the dot projector. IHS Markit puts the rollup BOM cost for the TrueDepth sensor cluster at $16.70.
Businesses

IBM's Quest To Design The 'New Helvetica' (fastcodesign.com) 172

IBM released its new bespoke typeface IBM Plex in beta this week. The company is hoping that the new typeface would become just as iconic as Helvetica in the years to come. From a Fast Co Design story: "When I came to IBM, it was a big discussion: Why does IBM not have a bespoke typeface? Why are we still clinging on to Helvetica?" Mike Abbink, the typeface's designer and IBM's executive creative director of brand experience and design said. To uncover what the typeface should express, Abbink and his team took a deep dive into IBM's archives. They were especially interested in the company's history in the postwar years, when its design-led business strategy first took shape and the legendary practitioner Paul Rand, who defined design as a system of relationships, created its famous eight-bar logo. In Rand's logo, Abbink and his team saw a contrast between hard edges -- the engineered, rational, and mechanical -- and curves -- the softer more humanistic elements. It's a reflection of the man-and-machine relationship that runs through the company's history -- a dynamic that is reflected in the final form of IBM Plex. The Plex family includes a sans serif, serif, and monospace versions. The designers also created a rigorous style guide that's akin to a digital standards manual and includes a type scale, which plays into responsive displays; eight different weights (a nod to how the IBM logo is composed of eight horizontally stacked bars); and usage guidelines, which dive into everything from information hierarchies to color and ragging. All together, it's easy to see Plex as a gentler, friendlier, more casual Helvetica for a broad range of uses both digital and print-based.
Displays

iPhone X Has the 'Most Innovative and High Performance' Smartphone Display Ever Tested (macrumors.com) 233

The display in the iPhone X is produced by Samsung and improved by Apple, says screen technology analysis firm DisplayMate. The company has released a display shoot-out for the iPhone X, praising Apple's technology in areas like the higher resolution OLED screen, automatic color management, viewing angle performance, and more. Mac Rumors reports: According to DisplayMate, the iPhone X has the "most innovative and high performance" smartphone display it has ever tested. DisplayMate also congratulated Samsung Display for "developing and manufacturing the outstanding OLED display hardware in the iPhone X." iPhone X matched or set new smartphone display records in the following categories: highest absolute color accuracy, highest full screen brightness for OLED smartphones, highest full screen contrast rating in ambient light, and highest contrast ratio. It also had the lowest screen reflectance and smallest brightness variation with a viewing angle. The iPhone X's 5.8-inch OLED display includes a taller height to width aspect ratio of 19.5:9, 22 percent larger than the 16:9 aspect ratio on previous iPhone models (and most other smartphones). Because of this DisplayMate noted that the iPhone X also has a new 2.5K higher resolution with 2436x1125 pixels and 458 pixels per inch. The iPhone X's display resolution provides "significantly higher image sharpness" than can be analyzed by a person with normal 20/20 vision at a 12-inch viewing distance. DisplayMate said this means that it's now "absolutely pointless" to increase the display resolution and pixels per inch of the iPhone any further, since there would be "no visual benefit" for users.
Stats

No, the Linux Desktop Hasn't Jumped in Popularity (zdnet.com) 187

An anonymous reader quotes ZDNet: Stories have been circulating that the Linux desktop had jumped in popularity and was used more than macOS. Alas, it's not so... These reports have been based on NetMarketShare's desktop operating system analysis, which showed Linux leaping from 2.5 percent in July, to almost 5 percent in September. But unfortunately for Linux fans, it's not true... It seems to be merely a mistake. Vince Vizzaccaro, NetMarketShare's executive marketing share of marketing told me, "The Linux share being reported is not correct. We are aware of the issue and are currently looking into it"...

For the most accurate, albeit US-centric operating system and browser numbers, I prefer to use data from the federal government's Digital Analytics Program (DAP). Unlike the others, DAP's numbers come from billions of visits over the past 90 days to over 400 US executive branch government domains... DAP gets its raw data from a Google Analytics account. DAP has open-sourced the code, which displays the data on the web and its data-collection code... In the US Analytics site, which summarizes DAP's data, you will find desktop Linux, as usual, hanging out in "other" at 1.5 percent. Windows, as always, is on top with 45.9 percent, followed by Apple iOS, at 25.5 percent, Android at 18.6 percent, and macOS at 8.5 percent.

The article does, however, acknowledge that Linux's real market share is probably a little higher simply because "no one, not even DAP, seems to do a good job of pulling out the Linux-based Chrome OS data."
Iphone

PSA: Apple's iPhone X Screen Repair Will Cost You $279 (macrumors.com) 144

We already know the iPhone X is expensive: it starts at $999 for the 64GB variant. But what about the cost of a screen replacement? If you don't have the extended warranty, a screen replacement will cost you $279, which is more than twice the price of an iPhone 6 screen replacement ($129) and about 65 percent higher than a new iPhone 8 screen ($169). MacRumors reports: In the United States, Apple will charge flat rates of $279 for iPhone X screen repairs and $549 for any other damage to the device, unless it is a manufacturing defect covered by Apple's standard one-year limited warranty. The fees vary in other countries, such as Australia, Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

-Australia: $419 for screen repairs, $819 for other damage
-Canada: $359 for screen repairs, $709 for other damage
-Germany: 321 Euros for screen repairs, and 611 Euros for other damage
-United Kingdom: 286 British Pounds for screen repairs, 556 British Pounds for other damage
-United States: $279 for screen repairs, $549 for other damage

These prices do not apply to customers who purchase AppleCare+ for the iPhone X, which costs $199 upfront in the United States. AppleCare+ is an optional warranty plan that extends an iPhone's coverage to two years from the original purchase date of the device. The plan adds up to two incidents of accidental damage coverage, each subject to a lower service fee of $29 for screen repairs, or $99 for any other damage.

Android

Google Addresses Pixel 2 XL Display Issues, Pixel 2 Clicking Sounds With Software Updates (phonedog.com) 103

An anonymous reader quotes a report from PhoneDog: Google explains that it's been investigating reports about the Pixel 2 XL's display and that this has given it "confidence that [its] displays are as great as [it] hoped they would be". Still, Google will be taking steps to respond to consumer complaints about the screen. Google plans to issue a software update that'll add a "saturated" color mode that will make the colors more saturated and vibrant, but less accurate. This way, consumers that feel the Pixel 2 XL's screen is too muted can punch up the color saturation themselves.

When it comes to burn-in, Google says that its investigations of the Pixel 2 XL's display found that its "decay characteristics are comparable to OLED panels used in other premium smartphones." Google does plan to take further steps to fight burn-in, though, and it's testing an update that'll add a new fade-out of the navigation bar buttons after a short period of inactivity. Google is also working with more apps to use a light navigation bar to match the app's color scheme. Additionally, the update will reduce the maximum brightness of the Pixel 2 XL's screen by 50 nits, which Google says will be "virtually imperceptible". This will reduce load on the display with very little change on its observed brightness. This update will roll out to the Pixel 2 XL "in the next few weeks." Google also touched on the reports that some Pixel 2 phones are emitting some clicking sounds. The company plans to release an update in the coming weeks to address the issue, but until then, it says that Pixel 2 owners can turn off NFC by going into Settings > Connected Devices > NFC.

Google

Google Might Need To Recall the Pixel 2 XL Because of Defective Screens (mashable.com) 71

An anonymous reader shares a report: You might want to hold off on buying a Pixel 2 XL until Google addresses its screen issues. Now that Google's new flagship Android phone is officially out and in people's hands, reports have come out that call into question the quality of its display. Pixel 2 XL owners took to social media to voice their complaints about discoloration and screen burn-in. The first issue Pixel 2 XL owners started noticing was the screen's inconsistent color temperature, most noticeable when viewing anything with a white background. From a dead-on vantage point, the screen has a warm color temperature. But shift your position off-angle just a bit, and you'll notice the color temperature changes to a bluish tint. Mashable has confirmed the color shifting on our Pixel 2 XL review unit. While there are some real advantages to OLED displays over traditional LCDs -- they're thinner, more power efficient, brighter, and display more vibrant colors and deeper blacks -- they're also prone to defects like screen burn-in. Even Samsung, the world's largest manufacturer of OLED displays, hasn't figured out how to perfect them. The Super AMOLED displays used in its Galaxy S8 and Note 8 phones are rated as the brightest screens for mobile devices by DisplayMate's Dr. Raymond Soneira, but they're still susceptible to burn-in. To prevent burn-in from the screen's virtual home button, Samsung's programmed it to move by a few pixels every few seconds. It's not a perfect solution, but it does the trick.
Android

ZTE Launches Axon M, a Foldable, Dual-Screened Smartphone (theverge.com) 61

ZTE's new Axon M is a full-featured smartphone with a hinge that connects two full-size displays, making the Axon M a flip phone of sorts. "Its front screen is a 5.2-inch, 1080p panel, it has last year's Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 20-megapixel camera," reports The Verge. "But flip the phone over and there's an identical 5.2-inch display on the back, making the Axon M anything but run-of-the-mill." From the report: The M's hinge allows the rear screen to flip forward and slot right next to the main display, creating an almost tablet sized canvas. You can stretch the home screen and apps across the two displays for a larger working area, or you can run two different apps at the same time, one on each screen. You can also "tent" the phone, and mirror the displays so two people can see the same content at the same time. ZTE says that it is utilizing Android's default split-screen features to enable many of the dual-screen functions, and it has made sure the "top 100" Android apps work on the phone. In the "extended" mode, which stretches a single app across both screens, the tablet version of the app is presented (provided there is one, which isn't always a guarantee with Android apps). It's even possible to stream video on both screens at the same time and switch the audio between them on the fly, which might be useful if you want to watch a sports game and YouTube at the same time, I guess.
Android

Android Oreo Helps Google's Pixel 2 Smartphones Outperform Other Android Flagships (hothardware.com) 91

MojoKid highlights Hot Hardware's review of Google's new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones: Google officially launched it's Pixel 2 phones today, taking the wraps off third-party reviews. Designed by Google but manufactured by HTC (Pixel 2) and LG (Pixel 2 XL), the two new handsets also boast Google's latest Android 8.0 operating system, aka Oreo, an exclusive to Google Pixel and certain Nexus devices currently. And in some ways, this is also a big advantage. Though they are based on the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor as many other Android devices, Google's new Pixel 2s manage to outpace similarly configured smartphones in certain benchmarks by significant margins (Basemark, PCMark and 3DMark). They also boot dramatically faster than any other Android handset on the market, in as little as 10 seconds. Camera performance is also excellent, with both the 5-inch Pixel 2 and 6-inch Pixel 2 XL sporting identical electronics, save for their displays and chassis sizes. Another notable feature built into Android Oreo is Google Now Playing, an always-listening, Shazam-like service (if you enable it) that displays song titles on the lock screen if it picks up on music playing in the room you're in. Processing is done right on the Pixel 2 and it doesn't need network connectivity. Another Pixel 2 Oreo-based trick is Google Lens, a machine vision system that Google notes "can recognize places like landmarks and buildings, artwork that you'd find in a museum, media covers such as books, movies, music albums, and video games..." The Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are available now on Verizon or unlocked via the Google Store starting at $649 and $849 respectively for 64GB storage versions, with a $100 up-charge for 128GB variants.
Input Devices

What Will Replace Computer Keyboards? (xconomy.com) 302

jeffengel writes:Computer keyboards will be phased out over the next 20 years, and we should think carefully about what replaces them as the dominant mode of communicating with machines, argues Android co-founder Rich Miner. Virtual reality technology and brain-computer links -- whose advocates include Elon Musk -- could lead to a "dystopian" future where people live their lives inside of goggles, or they jack directly into computers and become completely "de-personalized," Miner worries.

He takes a more "humanistic" view of the future of human-machine interfaces, one that frees us to be more expressive and requires computers to communicate on our level, not the other way around. That means software that can understand our speech, facial expressions, gestures, and handwriting. These technologies already exist, but have a lot of room for improvement.

One example he gives is holding up your hand to pause a video.
IOS

Latest iOS Update Shows Apple Can Use Software To Break Phones Repaired By Independent Shops (vice.com) 128

The latest version of iOS fixes several bugs, including one that caused a loss of touch functionality on a small subset of phones that had been repaired with certain third-party screens and had been updated to iOS 11. "Addresses an issue where touch input was unresponsive on some iPhone 6S displays because they were not serviced with genuine Apple parts," the update reads. "Note: Non-genuine replacement displays may have compromised visual quality and may fail to work correctly. Apple-certified screen repairs are performed by trusted experts who use genuine Apple parts. See support.apple.com for more information." Jason Koebler writes via Motherboard: "This is a reminder that Apple seems to have the ability to push out software updates that can kill hardware and replacement parts it did not sell iPhone customers itself, and that it can fix those same issues remotely." From the report: So let's consider what actually happened here. iPhones that had been repaired and were in perfect working order suddenly stopped working after Apple updated its software. Apple was then able to fix the problem remotely. Apple then put out a warning blaming the parts that were used to do the repair. Poof -- phone doesn't work. Poof -- phone works again. In this case, not all phones that used third party parts were affected, and there's no reason to think that, in this case, Apple broke these particular phones on purpose. But there is currently nothing stopping the company from using software to control unauthorized repair: For instance, you cannot replace the home button on an iPhone 7 without Apple's proprietary "Horizon Machine" that re-syncs a new home button with the repaired phone. This software update is concerning because it not only undermines the reputation of independent repair among Apple customers, but because it shows that phones that don't use "genuine" parts could potentially one day be bricked remotely.
Displays

Anticipating Samsung's AMOLED Mixed Reality Headset (windowscentral.com) 36

Eloking quotes Windows Central: At an event in San Francisco, HoloLens inventor Alex Kipman outlined the future of Windows Mixed Reality, which Redmond seems to believe is the future of computing. Whether or not it is remains to be seen, but either way, there will be no shortage of Windows Mixed Reality headsets this holiday season, with perhaps the most compelling option coming from Samsung.

The $500 Samsung HMD Odyssey sports dual AMOLED eye displays, complete with a 110-degree field of view. This could potentially make a huge difference in the quality of the Windows Mixed Reality experience for two reasons. First, AMOLED displays can generate deeper blacks and more vibrant colors than your average OLED or LCD screen. Second, all other Windows Mixed Reality headsets we've seen have a 95-degree FoV. The Samsung headset will be more immersive because there will be less dead space in your peripheral vision.

The headset -- which comes with motion controllers -- is expected to launch in one month.
AMD

AMD Unveils E9170 Embedded GPU (zdnet.com) 49

AMD is releasing a new embedded Radeon GPU, the first to be based on the Polaris architecture. From a report: But this one isn't aimed at the desktop or laptop markets, but instead it expands AMD's offerings in the digital casino games, thin clients, medical displays, retail and digital signage, and industrial systems markets. The AMD Embedded Radeon E9173 GPU, based on the Polaris architecture, uses an optimized 14-nanometer FinFET manufacturing process to provide up to three times the performance-per-watt over previous generations of AMD Embedded GPUs. And the Radeon E9170 is quite a powerhouse, delivering up to 1.25 TFLOPS at sub-40W TDP board power, and includes 4K HEVC/H.265 and AVC/H.264 decode and encode support, 4K and 3D support, and is capable of driving up to five 4K displays using HDMI 2.0 and/or DisplayPort 1.4. AMD is planning for the Radeon E9173 to have a long lifecycle -- which high-end customers demand -- and plans for it to be available through to 2024.

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