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Apple and Google’s COVID-19 tracking system will make its full US debut in new Virginia app

This week, Virginia plans to release a COVID-19 exposure notification app based on the specifications published by Apple and Google in April. The app, called COVIDWISE, is the first fully deployed implementation of Apple and Google’s system in the US, and was beta-tested by the state department of health.

The specification is designed to preserve patient privacy, particularly around their location and whether they have tested positive for COVID-19. “No location data or personal information is ever collected, stored or transmitted to VDH as part of the app,” a health department official told Virginia Public Media, which first reported the news. “You can delete the app or turn off exposure notifications at any time.”

If someone tests positive for the coronavirus, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) will give them a PIN number that they can choose to use to report that result within the app. Then, other users of the app should get a notification if their phones were near the sick person at some point in the past 14 days. However, those notifications will only go out to phones when the exposure met a threshold for a strength and duration of the Bluetooth signal that can be estimated as a user being within six feet of the other user for 15 minutes (based on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention definition of ‘close contact’).

Apple and Google’s system relies on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), and does not track physical location through GPS. Instead, it collects and stores signals from nearby phones. Phones trade anonymous keys, which change every 15 minutes. The companies announced their partnership in April and released the system’s API to health departments in May.

Apps that automate the contact tracing process can help flag people who were near someone with COVID-19, even if they may not remember interacting. They can also provide instant notification of a possible virus exposure. But they’re not a replacement for manual contact tracing, because they’re only able to monitor the contacts between people who have smartphones and decide to use the app. The VDH said it’s not using the app as part of its own contact tracing process, but that it offers a way for users to track their own potential exposures.

The more people who download the app, the more effective it will be. “If enough of the population downloaded this app and enabled it on their phone, we would have an automated way of figuring out who you have been around,” Danny Avula, director of the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts in Virginia, told VPM.

Alabama launched a close pilot for its own exposure notification app, called GuideSafe, this week. The pilot is open to anyone in the state with a .edu email address. It’s part of the state’s return-to-campus plans, said University of Alabama at Birmingham President Ray Watts. The app is aiming for 10,000 downloads each on Apple and Android phones.

Twenty US states are interested in apps that use the Apple and Google system, Google said last week. Alabama, South Carolina, and North Dakota each had projects in development in May. The Association of Public Health Laboratories is also building a national server that will allow apps to work across state lines.

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Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2020: the five biggest announcements

Samsung’s anticipated Unpacked 2020 event is all packed up. The Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra are now real things, as are the Galaxy Tab S7 tablet, the Galaxy Watch 3, and the Galaxy Buds Live (FKA “Beans”). Also, it announced the new Galaxy Z Fold 2. In case you missed out on the presentation or just want to see the main highlights of the show without having to watch through the show yourself, we’ve distilled them all into bite-size bits below.

The smaller Note 20 is on the left, Note 20 Ultra on the right.

Becca Farsace / The Verge

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra are loaded with powerful specs, starting at $1,000 for the Note 20 and $1,300 for the Note 20 Ultra. Each have the Snapdragon 865 Plus processor with 5G support, as well as an IP68 rating for waterproofing and support for wireless charging, but they differ in a few major ways.

Samsung put a 64MP telephoto lens in the Note 20 (versus the Ultra’s 12MP telephoto lens), but the Ultra has a 108MP wide-angle lens (compared to the Note 20’s 12MP offering) along with 5x optical zoom. The pricier Note 20 Ultra has a 120Hz refresh rate OLED screen, along with more RAM and microSD support.

Of course, Samsung had to have something else up its sleeves. As a final announcement, it showed off the successor to the original Galaxy Fold foldable phone. When it’s closed, the outside display that’s visible is much bigger than before. It’s 6.2 inches, whereas the main screen that comes unfolded when you open the device stretches to 7.6 inches. Samsung said that it reinforced the overall structure of the phone to make it stronger and improved the hinge, so hopefully it’s more durable than the first-generation model. Samsung says we’ll get more info on September 1st regarding availability and pricing.

Image: Samsung

Another product that leaked extensively ahead of its official unveiling, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are the company’s latest wireless earbuds. They look like little jelly beans and they’re smaller in size compared to the Galaxy Buds Plus, but they pack in even more advanced tech, like active noise cancellation. We already think the Buds Plus are the best overall wireless earbuds, so these could improve on the formula even more. Samsung showed off how easily it is to connect to multiple devices, which is something that Apple’s AirPods are known for, so we’ll have to see how well that turns out in the finished product.

Photo by Becca Farsace / The Verge

The Galaxy Watch 3 is a thinner smartwatch than Samsung’s previous models, and it features a bigger 1.4-inch display. It’s also more expensive that the last iteration Galaxy Watch, bumping up the price by $70. It will be available in 41mm and 45mm sizes.

Photo by Becca Farsace / The Verge

Samsung announced two sizes of the Tab S7 tablet, consisting of an 11-inch and a 12.4-inch lineup. Both run Android 10 with OneUI software, feature the powerful Snapdragon 865 Plus processor, and their displays have a fast 120Hz refresh rate, though only the larger of the two has an OLED screen. The smaller device has an LCD screen.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 20: how to preorder

Samsung has announced its new Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra phones at its Unpacked 2020 online event. The Verge’s Dieter Bohn has the full breakdown on everything you need to know about both devices above. I’m just here to tell you where you can preorder them. Oh, and if you’re curious about when you can preorder the new Galaxy Z Fold 2, that’s coming on September 1st.

Both Note 20 phones will release on Friday, August 21st, but preorders open up tomorrow, August 6th. Below, you’ll find all of the carrier stores and retailers that will be accepting preorders, along with their pricing. First, here’s what you’ll get in terms of free incentives along with your preorder.

You can get free stuff with a preorder

If you preorder either the Note 20 or Note 20 Ultra before August 20th, you’ll get some free goodies with your purchase. Buying the $1,000 Note 20 will earn you a $100 Samsung credit that can be redeemed on its site or through the Shop Samsung app, and it can go toward “curated bundles and select products like Samsung TVs, Galaxy Buds Live, tablets and more.”

The $1,300 Note 20 Ultra comes with a $150 credit. To redeem either credit, you’ll need to provide your proof of purchase through the Shop Samsung app. (Note: you’ll be eligible for this credit regardless of where you choose to buy a Note 20-series device.)

One of those curated bundles, in case you were curious, is an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate Bundle that includes the PowerA MOGA XP5-X Plus Bluetooth gaming controller and a three-month subscription to Game Pass Ultimate. The fine print mentions that the Game Pass Ultimate subscription will work only if you’re a new subscriber, though, not a current one.

Lastly, if you placed a reservation for your Note 20 or Note 20 Ultra preorder ahead of the Unpacked event on August 5th, you’ll get an additional $50 credit that can be used on the products mentioned above.

Photo by Becca Farsace / The Verge

Samsung Galaxy Note 20

Samsung is selling one configuration of the Note 20 in the US. It has 128GB of internal storage and 8GB of RAM. There’s no microSD support on this model. This size of the Note 20 has a 6.7-inch FHD+ screen with a hole-punch camera and is powered by the Snapdragon 865 Plus processor. The Note 20 and the Note 20 Ultra model below are 5G-ready, with support for mmWave and sub-6Ghz coverage.

  • Verizon will offer the Note 20 on preorder starting August 6th, and the pricing with a 24-month installment plan is $41.66 per month. It will be available in three colors: mystic bronze, mystic gray, and mystic green. If you buy a Note 20, you can get another Note 20 for “as low as free” if you get it with a premium Unlimited plan, or half off with any other Unlimited plan. Lastly, you can get up to $500 worth of trade-in credit toward the phone if you’re upgrading and on an Unlimited plan.
  • AT&T will accept preorders on August 6th and it will sell the Note 20 starting August 21st in-store and online. It’s carrying all five colors: mystic black, white, green, gray, and bronze. New and current AT&T customers can get a Note 20 for free (after $1,000 in billing credits are paid back over a 30-month period) when they trade in a phone in good condition worth at least $60 in credit and buy the Note 20 on a 30-month installment plan with AT&T’s unlimited plan, which will cost $33.34 per month.
  • T-Mobile is accepting preorders on August 7th, a day after they open everywhere else. The Note 20 will cost $41.67 per month with its 24-month installment plan. If you buy a Note 20, you can get another one free (after getting $1,000 back in billing credits over a 24-month period) if you add a line to your account. Additionally, you can get up to $500 off if you trade in a qualifying phone.
  • Xfinity Mobile will offer preorders for the Note 20 starting August 6th. It’s offering the Note 20 in mystic bronze, gray, or green colors. The carrier hasn’t yet shared installment plan pricing, but until September 15th, customers can get $400 off the Galaxy Note 20 when they buy it, activate a new line, and transfer their number. Existing customers will receive a $400 Visa prepaid card in lieu of the device discount when they upgrade an existing line with a Note 20.

The Note 20 Ultra’s camera bump is substantial.

Becca Farsace / The Verge

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

This larger model with a 6.9-inch QHD+ OLED screen and a 120Hz refresh rate comes in two configurations in the US. Each is built with 12GB of RAM, but you can choose between a 128GB model or one with 512GB of storage. This model has microSD support.

  • Verizon will offer the Note 20 Ultra on preorder starting August 6th, and the pricing with a 24-month installment plan is $54.16 per month. It will be available in three colors: mystic bronze, mystic gray, and mystic green. As mentioned earlier, buying a Note 20 Ultra can get another Note 20 for “as low as free” if you get it with a premium Unlimited plan, or half off with any other Unlimited plan. Lastly, you can get up to $500 worth of trade-in credit toward the phone if you’re upgrading and on an Unlimited plan.
  • AT&T will accept preorders on August 6th and it will sell the Note 20 Ultra starting August 21st in-store and online. It’s carrying all five colors: mystic black, white, green, gray, and bronze. New and current AT&T customers can get a Note 20 for free (after $1,000 in billing credits are paid back to you over a 30-month period) when they trade in a phone in good condition worth at least $60 in credit and buy the Note 20 Ultra on a 30-month installment plan with AT&T’s unlimited plan, which will cost $43.34 per month for the 128GB version or $48.34 per month for the upgraded 512GB model.
  • T-Mobile is accepting preorders on August 7th, a day after they open everywhere else. The Note 20 Ultra with 128GB of storage will cost $54.17 per month with its 24-month installment plan. The 512GB option requires $149.99 down and costs $54.17 per month. If you buy a Note 20 Ultra, you can get a Note 20 for free (after getting $1,000 back in billing credits over a 24-month period) if you add a line to your account. Additionally, you can get up to $500 off if you trade in a qualifying phone.
  • Xfinity Mobile will offer preorders for the Note 20 Ultra starting August 6th. It’s offering the Note 20 in mystic bronze, black, or white colors. The carrier hasn’t yet shared installment plan pricing, but until September 15th, customers can get $400 off the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra when they buy it, activate a new line, and transfer their number. Existing customers will receive a $400 Visa prepaid card in lieu of the device discount when they upgrade an existing line with a Note 20 Ultra.

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Here’s what Google’s complicated privacy email about audio is really about

Google is returning to having humans analyze and rate anonymized audio snippets from its users. However, it’s also taken the major step of automatically opting every single user out of the setting that allows Google to store their audio. That’s why you might be getting an email today: Google would like you to opt back in to the program, and it’s trying to provide clearer information detailing what it’s all about.

Those are very big moves that affect a huge number of people — though Google says the precise number of users getting the email is confidential. It should land in the inbox of anybody who has interacted with a product that uses Google’s voice AI, including apps like Google Maps and services like Google Assistant.

Here’s a PDF of the email that is being sent to virtually everybody who’s spoken into a microphone with a Google logo next to it, which reads in part:

To keep you in control of your audio recording setting, we’ve turned it off for you until you are able to review the updated information. Visit your Google Account to review and enable the audio recordings setting if you choose.

It will link to this URL (which I’m listing out because you should never just click a URL to an account setting without double-checking it): https://myactivity.google.com/consent/assistant/vaa

It is difficult to remember now, but last summer, one of the biggest stories in tech was how every major company was using humans to review the quality of their AI transcriptions. When some of those audio recordings began to leak, it rocked Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook.

That meant tech’s 2019 summer of scandal was characterized by technical explanations of how machine learning works, apologies, outrage, walkbacks, and ultimately every company finally started making it easier for users to know what data was being stored and how to delete it. I’ll put a bunch of the stories in a sidebar just to give you a sense of how intense it was.

All of those companies got significantly better at providing real disclosures about how audio data was used and made it easier to delete it or opt out of providing it entirely. Most of those big tech companies also went back to using human reviewers to improve their services — with disclosures and / or asking users to consent again.

But Google didn’t bring back human reviewers after it paused the practice globally last September. When it did, it promised: “We won’t include your audio in the human review process unless you’ve re-confirmed your [Voice & Audio Activity] VAA setting as on.“ Today’s email, then, is that promise made real — albeit it much later than everybody else.

Google’s website for opting back in to having audio recordings saved

Google’s website for opting back in to having audio recordings saved.

Some of the details you read if you click “Learn more about your audio.”

Some of the details you read if you click “Learn more about your audio.”

When you click the link in the email, you’ll be taken to a very short website that has the YouTube video below explaining Google’s policies. You’ll also be able to click a link that provides more granular detail on how Google stores and uses audio.

If you opt in to allowing Google to store your audio, it gets used in two ways. There is a period where is it associated with your account. Google uses that data to improve voice matching, and you can go there to review or delete any of that data. As of June 2020, the default timeline for data getting automatically deleted is 18 months.

After that, your audio will be chopped up and “anonymized,” at which point it may be sent along to human reviewers to check for transcription accuracy. And as it’s been a point of contention, I’ll add that some of those reviewers will be at third-party vendors. Only anonymized data will be sent to humans, Google says.

One strange caveat to all this: although Google is turning the setting to save audio recordings for everyone, it’s not changing the policies for audio that has already been uploaded. If you want that deleted, you can go and do it yourself. If you don’t bother, however, Google tells me that humans won’t be reviewing any audio that was uploaded during the pause.

Google is presenting all of this as a setting change rather than a policy shift. In fact, the company tells me that its privacy policy isn’t changing; this is a “separate opt-in consent” that’s allowed under its terms. There’s no official blog post or other communication, so the email and that website it links cover it for Google.

If you are looking to opt out or delete data from any of these big companies, here are a few links to get you started:

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How Samsung’s Galaxy Note 20 compares to its predecessors and competitors

Samsung has just announced the Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra, the two latest phones in its stylus-equipped lineup. The specs of Samsung’s Note phones are always top-of-the line, with big high-resolution screens, fast processors, and big batteries. So how do they compare to Samsung’s previous flagship phones, as well as the best its competitors currently have to offer?

We’ve rounded up the most important specs for both the Galaxy Note 20 and the Note 20 Ultra below, and compared them directly against Samsung’s previous flagships (including those from its recent Galaxy S20 series, as well as last year’s Note 10 lineup), as well as competing devices from the likes of Google, OnePlus, and of course, Apple.

Of course, the specs never tell the full story, and you’ll have to wait for our full reviews of the Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra to know how they perform in real world usage. But if you want to see how the raw numbers stack up, read on for a full spec comparison, that includes the phones’ original starting prices, battery capacities, cameras, and screen sizes.

Photo by Becca Farsace / The Verge

These tables are best viewed in landscape mode on mobile devices.

Galaxy Note 20 vs. its predecessors and competitors

Category Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Samsung Galaxy S20 Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Google Pixel 4 OnePlus 8 iPhone 11 Pro
Category Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Samsung Galaxy S20 Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Google Pixel 4 OnePlus 8 iPhone 11 Pro
Starting price $999 $999 $949 $799 $699 $999
OS Android 10 (One UI) Android 10 (One UI) Android 10 (One UI) Android 10 Android 10 (OxygenOS) iOS 13.6
Display 6.7-inch (2400 x 1080) OLED 6.2-inch (3040 x 1440) OLED 6.3-inch (2280 x 1080) OLED 5.7-inch (2280 x 1080) OLED 6.55-inch (2400 x 1080) OLED 5.8-inch (2436 x 1125) OLED
Refresh rate 60Hz Up to 120Hz 60Hz Up to 90Hz Up to 90Hz 60Hz
Dimensions (mm) 161.6 x 75.2 x 8.3mm 69.1 x 151.7 x 7.9mm 71.8 x 151 x 7.9mm 68.8 x 147.1 x 8.2mm 160.2 x 72.9 x 8mm 144 x 71.4 x 8.1mm
Weight 194g 163g 168g 162g 180g 188g
Battery capacity 4,300mAh 4,000mAh 3,500mAh 2,800mAh 4,300mAh 3,046mAh
Processor US: Snapdragon 865 Plus US: Snapdragon 865 US: Snapdragon 855 Snapdragon 855 Snapdragon 865 Apple A13 Bionic
RAM 8GB 8GB 8GB 6GB 8GB or 12GB 4GB
Storage 128GB 128GB (microSD support allows an additional 1TB) 256GB 64 or 128GB 128 or 256GB 64 or 256 or 512GB
Ports USB-C charging port USB-C charging port USB-C charging port USB-C charging port USB-C charging port Lightning charging poirt
Rear cameras 12MP (F/1.8, 79 degree, OIS, 1/1.76″) wide, 12MP (F/2.2, 120 degree) ultrawide, 64MP (F/2.0, 76 degree) 12MP (F/1.8, OIS, 1/1.76″) wide, 64MP (F/2.0, OIS, 1/1.72″) telephoto, 12MP (F/2.2) ultrawide 12MP (F/2.1, OIS, 1/3.6″) telephoto, 16MP (F/2.2, 123 degree, 1/3.1″) ultrawide, 12MP ( F/1.5-2.4, OIS, 77 degree, 1/2.55″) wide 16MP (F/2.4, OIS, 52 degree, 1/3.6″) telephoto, 12.2MP (F/1.7, OIS, 77 degree, 1/2.55″) wide 48MP (F/1.8, OIS, 1/2.0″) wide, 16MP (F/2.2, 116 degree) ultrawide, 2MP (F/2.4) macro 12MP (F/1.8, OIS, 1/2.55″) wide, 12MP (F/2.0, OIS, 1/3.4″) telephoto, 12MP (F/2.4) ultrawide
Front cameras 10MP (F/2.2) 10MP (F/2.2) 10MP (F/2.2) 8MP (F/2.0) 16MP (F/2.0) 12MP (F/2.2)
Biometrics Ultrasonic fingerprint sensor Ultrasonic fingerprint sensor Ultrasonic fingerprint sensor Face unlock In-display fingerprint sensor Face unlock
Waterproof IP68 IP68 IP68 IP68 No (unlocked), IP68(carrier model) IP68
Wireless charging Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs. its predecessors and competitors

Category Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus Google Pixel 4 XL OnePlus 8 Pro iPhone 11 Pro Max
Category Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus Google Pixel 4 XL OnePlus 8 Pro iPhone 11 Pro Max
Starting price $1,299 $1,399 $1,099 $899 $899 $1,099
OS Android 10 (One UI) Android 10 (One UI) Android 10 (OneUI) Android 10 Android 10 (OxygenOS) iOS 13.6
Display 6.9-inch (3088 x 1440) OLED 6.9-inch (3200 x 1440) OLED 6.8-inch (3040 x 1440) OLED 6.3-inch (3040 x 1440) OLED 6.78-inch (3168 x 1440) OLED 6.5-inch (2688 x 1242) OLED
Refresh rate Up to 120Hz Up to 120Hz 60Hz Up to 90Hz Up to 120Hz 60Hz
Dimensions (mm) 164.8 x 77.2 x 8.1mm 166.9 x 76 x 8.8mm 162.3 x 77.2 x 7.9mm 160.4 x 75.1 x 8.2mm 165.3 x 74.4 x 8.5mm 158 x 77.8 x 8.1mm
Weight 208g 222g 196g 193g 199g 226g
Battery capacity 4,500mAh 5,000mAh 4,300mAh 3,700mAh 4,510mAh 3969mAh
Processor US: Snapdragon 865 Plus US: Snapdragon 865 US: Snapdragon 855 Snapdragon 855 Snapdragon 865 Apple A13 Bionic
RAM 12GB RAM 12 or 16GB RAM 12GB RAM 6GB RAM 8 or 12GB RAM 4GB RAM
Storage 128 or 512GB (microSD support allows an addiitonal 1TB) 128 or 256 or 512GB (microSD support allows an additional 1TB) 256 or 512GB RAM (microSD support allows an addiitonal 1TB) 64GB or 128GB 128 or 256GB 64 or 256 or 512GB RAM
Ports USB-C charging port USB-C charging port USB-C charging port USB-C charging port USB-C charging port Lightning charging port
Rear cameras 108mp (F/1.8, OIS, 79 degree, 1/1.33″) wide, 12MP (F/2.2, 120 degree) ultrawide, 12MP (F/3.0, 20 degree) telephoto, Laser AF 108MP (F/1.8, OIS, 1/1.33″) wide, 48MP (F/3.5, OIS, 1/2.0″) periscope telephoto, 12MP (F/2.2) ultrawide, 0.3MP (F/1.0, TOF 3D) depth 12MP (F/1.5 -2.4, OIS, 1/2.55″) wide, 12MP (F/2.1, OIS, 1/3.6″) telephoto, 16MP (F/2.2, 1/3.1″) ultrawide, 0.3MP (TOF 3D) depth 12.2MP (F/1.7, OIS, 1/2.55″) wide, 16MP (F/2.4, OIS, 1/3.6″) telephoto 48MP (F/1.8, OIS, 1/1.43″) wide, 8MP (F/2.4, OIS) telephoto, 48MP (F/2.2, 116 degree, 1/2.0″) ultrawide, 5MP (F/2.4) color filter 12MP (F/1.8, OIS, 1/2.55″) wide, 12MP (F/2.0, OIS, 1/3.4″) telephoto, 12MP (F/2.4) ultrawide
Front cameras 10MP (F/2.2) 40MP (F/2.2) 10MP (F/2.2) 8MP (F/2.0) 16MP (F/2.5) 12MP (F/2.2)
Biometrics Ultrasonic fingerprint sensor Ultrasonic fingerprint sensor Ultrasonic fingerprint sensor Face unlock In-display fingerprint sensor Face unlock
Waterproof IP68 IP68 IP68 IP68 IP68 IP68
Wireless charging Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

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Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 3 is thinner, lighter, and more expensive

Samsung has just announced the latest model in its long line of smartwatches, the Galaxy Watch 3. The Watch 3 succeeds the Galaxy Watch that was first released in 2018 and joins the Galaxy Watch Active and Watch Active 2 in Samsung’s current lineup. It will be available for purchase starting on August 6th for $399.99 and up.

The Galaxy Watch 3 (no, you’re not imagining things, there isn’t a Galaxy Watch 2, Samsung decided to skip a number to make it appear newer than the Galaxy Watch Active 2 that’s been out since last year) looks similar to the prior model, with a physical rotating dial, two buttons on the side, and a chunkier design compared to the sleeker and simpler Active models. But Samsung says it’s 14 percent thinner and 15 percent lighter than the Galaxy Watch, which should make it more comfortable to wear, especially for those with smaller wrists. At the same time, the screen size has increased to 1.4 inches on the larger variant.

The Watch 3 is available in two different sizes, 41mm and 45mm, each with Bluetooth or LTE variations. The 41mm version will be available in bronze or silver, while the 45mm watch will be in silver or black. Both models have full-color, always-on OLED displays with Gorilla Glass.

They run Samsung’s Tizen platform, which means they work best with Samsung’s own phones, run okay on other Android phones, and don’t really play all that well with iPhones, even though Samsung technically supports connections to iOS. Samsung’s wearable platform is generally considered to be better than Google’s own Wear OS, however.

Samsung says the Watch 3 is up to 14 percent thinner and 15 percent lighter than the model it replaces.
Photo by Becca Farsace / The Verge

Samsung is clearly positioning the Watch 3 as a more upmarket smartwatch compared to the sport and fitness-focused Active line. The Watch 3 is made from stainless steel compared to the aluminum used on the base models of the Active watches, and Samsung says that a titanium version will be coming later this year. The company also says it worked with IWC Schaffhausen, a Swiss watchmaker, on the design of the Watch 3. Instead of a basic rubber strap, each Watch 3 will come with a color-matched leather band. The titanium model will have a matching titanium link bracelet.

As a result, the price of the Watch 3 is about $70 more than before and $150 more than the Watch Active 2. It now goes head to head against the Series 5 Apple Watch, at least in terms of pricing.

Though the Active line is pitched as being more of a fitness companion, the Watch 3 does debut a few new enhancements on the fitness tracking side of things. The sleep tracking feature has been enhanced with better algorithms and more precise data. Later this year, the Watch 3 will gain blood oxygen (SpO2 and VO2 Max) monitoring, and in Korea, it will be able to monitor blood pressure and electrocardiography. (Samsung says it is working with the FDA to obtain clearance for those features in the US.) The Watch 3 also has a new trip and fall detection feature that will notify a contact when a fall is detected, similar to the feature in later models of the Apple Watch.

Outside of fitness tracking, you can expect the Watch 3 to carry on all of the other smart watch functions of the Galaxy Watch, including notifications from apps, customizable watchfaces, hands-free Bixby assistant, Samsung Pay for mobile payments (NFC only), and a speaker for playing alerts and taking calls. Samsung claims the battery life has been extended to two days between charges.

We will have a review of the new Galaxy Watch 3 in the near future, so stay tuned for more.

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Samsung announces Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra Android flagships

Samsung has officially announced 2020’s Galaxy Note lineup. There are two models this year: the regular Galaxy Note 20 and the high-end Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. Both feature the main thing that differentiates the Note line — an included S Pen stylus — but the new Notes are more different from each other than you might expect.

As it did with the Galaxy S20 earlier this year, Samsung is explicitly trying to make the “Ultra” moniker push the top-tier specs ever higher, which apparently allows the regular model to skimp on a few features. It’s a tale of two Notes.

The regular Galaxy Note 20 lacks important features like a high refresh rate screen, microSD storage expansion, and periscope zoom lens, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t expensive. It’s $999.99 for a model with 128GB of storage and 8GB of RAM.

The Note 20 Ultra, meanwhile, has everything Samsung knows how to throw at a phone (short of a folding screen) and the price to match those specs: $1,299.99 for the 128GB storage / 12GB RAM model and $1,449.99 to bump that storage up to 512GB.

Preorders for both begin at 12:01AM ET on August 6th, and the phones should be shipping and in carrier stores (the ones that are open, anyway) on August 21st.

Both phones do share some key specs. The one you’re most likely to be told about (because it’s what carriers are pushing) is their support for both types of 5G networks. Samsung has improved latency on the S Pen and added a few more ways you can wave it about to control your phone remotely. They support fast charging, wireless charging, and reverse wireless charging. And Samsung is also using the brand new version of Gorilla Glass that’s supposedly more resistant to scratches.

They’ve got stereo speakers with some Dolby technology, IP68 water resistance, and ship with Android 10. Both can record video at 8K (which seems like overkill for a phone) and support external microphone options. Dex now works wirelessly (via Miracast) and both phones have some important new Microsoft software tie-ins.

Both still feature Bixby, at best the fourth-place digital assistant behind Google, Alexa, and even Siri.

The Note 20s also have a new kind of finish, which Samsung calls “Mystic.” It amounts to a textured finish on the glass that should hopefully do a better job of repelling — or at least hiding — fingerprints. The Note 20 Ultra will come in bronze, black, and white. The Note 20 will come in bronze, gray, and green.

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is very large, as you’d expect from a Note.

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is very large, as you’d expect from a Note.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra hardware and specs

The Note 20 Ultra has two big jobs. The first is to fill the slot of Samsung’s highest tier, zero-compromise phone. It needs to be the phone with the highest specs that Samsung can use to say it is second to no other Android manufacturer. The second job is to correct some of the mistakes of the Galaxy S20 Ultra.

Simply as an object, the Note 20 Ultra is as imposing as a phone can be — which is a good thing, as that really is the Note’s aesthetic. It’s big and square, with a screen that’s curved (for better or worse) around the sides to minimize the visibility of bezels. It is as close to all-screen on the front as you can reasonably get, interrupted only by a small hole punch and even smaller top and bottom bezels. The camera bump is unabashedly, unapologetically massive.

The Note 20 Ultra supports an adaptive high-refresh rate screen, the regular Note 20 does not.

The Note 20 Ultra supports an adaptive high refresh rate screen; the regular Note 20 does not.

On a spec level, Samsung does get to claim to be at the very top of the Android heap — at least for the time being. It has a massive 6.9-inch 1440p OLED display capable of refreshing at 120Hz. It has three cameras on the back, one of which is 108 megapixels, while another includes a periscope. It has the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus processor and 12GB of RAM, plus the ability to expand its base storage with an SD card. The battery is 4,500mAh and it supports both flavors of 5G.

So flagship specs for the Android world are a check — though it should be said that Apple’s A13 Bionic processor from last year is still faster than anything Qualcomm is putting out.

The Note 20 Ultra adds dynamically adjusting refresh rates for the screen to preserve battery life, but it can’t hit that full rate at its max resolution (also presumably to preserve battery life). Samsung also tossed in an Ultra Wideband (UWB) radio to make it easier for phones to transfer files by pointing them at each other and — eventually — to support unlocking cars. The iPhone 11 Pro has UWB, so it seems like Samsung couldn’t stand not hitting that spec checkbox, too, even though the software isn’t quite ready.

The Note 20 Ultra’s camera bump is substantial.

The Note 20 Ultra’s camera bump is substantial.

Samsung’s second mission with the Note 20 Ultra is to try once again to turn its Samsung-made 108-megapixel camera sensor into a category-beating camera. Results with that sensor on the Galaxy S20 Ultra were decidedly mixed — it initially had slow focus and, even after a software update, wasn’t as good as a more traditional smartphone camera. Plus, Samsung’s “Space Zoom” feature offered a 100x zoom that honestly should have capped out at something much smaller — the optical zoom from the periscope is 5x.

With the Note 20 Ultra, Samsung has theoretically addressed both issues. For focusing, the Ultra includes the software enhancements Samsung already released for the S20 Ultra. But more importantly, it has swapped in a laser autofocus system, which should speed up focusing considerably. Space Zoom is now capped at 50x — still enough to be impressive, but hopefully not so much that all you’re getting is a pile of pixels.

The smaller Note 20 is on the left, Note 20 Ultra on the right.

The smaller Note 20 is on the left, Note 20 Ultra on the right.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 hardware and specs

Where the Note 20 Ultra is a spec monster, the regular Note 20 has a somewhat shorter spec sheet. It’s smaller, for one thing, with a 6.7-inch 1080p display. As a physical device, the regular Note 20 is also more approachable. It has a bit more curve to its corners (though less to its screen) and shows more bezel overall. The camera bump isn’t like a huge mesa on the back of the device, either. It’s still a very large, fairly wide phone by any standard, but it isn’t just a smaller Note 20 Ultra; it has its own design language.

Disappointingly, the Note 20 lacks a few specs that you get on a Note 20 Ultra. Its display has the usual 60Hz refresh rate you see on any phone. You also can’t expand its storage with microSD cards, and there’s only a 128GB model available.

The smaller Note 20 (on the right) has notably different curves on its edges.

The smaller Note 20 (on the right) has notably different curves on its edges.

It’s especially baffling because even the regular Galaxy S20 from earlier this year has a high refresh rate screen and also allows for microSD storage expansion. The smaller S20 lacks mmWave 5G, though, so perhaps Samsung sees that as a trade-off. Still, at $999.99, a high refresh rate screen is a must in 2020, and it’s odd to see it missing here.

The Note 20’s camera system is essentially equivalent to the S20’s, at least. It has a main 12-megapixel camera, a 12-megapixel ultrawide, and then 64 megapixels for the telephoto and its non-periscope-enabled version of Space Zoom — which goes up to 30x.

The Note 20 is certainly still a top-tier phone from a spec perspective. It has a 4,300mAh battery, the same Snapdragon 865 Plus processor, and all the same software features as the Ultra. But in dropping some things that are available on the S20 lineup, the Note 20 is asking a decent amount of money for that S Pen.

Both Notes come with the same S Pen stylus.

Both Notes come with the same S Pen stylus.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 software enhancements

Since these are Notes, the first big software update applies to the S Pen. There are now more “Anywhere actions” that turn the S Pen into a gesture-based remote control for the phone. You’ll need to memorize various magic wand movements to make it all work, though.

Samsung is deepening its relationship with Microsoft in some fairly significant ways. For the Note 20 line, the most important new software feature is that Samsung Notes will sync with Microsoft OneNote later this year. That makes Samsung’s app much more useful as your notes are now less likely to just sit on your phone. Samsung tells us that it’s only a one-way sync, however, which means you can’t use the Notes app as a stand-in for the OneNote app if you work across multiple devices. Notes also gains the ability to annotate PDFs, match up audio recordings with your notes, and offers full folder management.

Microsoft also is going to feature heavily for gaming, as Samsung will be pushing its compatibility with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. One of the preorder bundles will offer an option to get three months of the gaming subscription service from Microsoft, which will let you stream Xbox games on Android from next month. The Your Phone app that syncs with Windows will of course be bundled, but now Samsung is promising future software updates like running multiple Android apps on your Windows desktop.

The Galaxy Note 20 and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.

The Galaxy Note 20 and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.

Alongside the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra, Samsung also announced a new tablet, a new watch, and new earbuds. It also had previously announced a 5G version of its Z Flip folding phone and may yet announce a second version of the original Galaxy Fold in today’s event. If it does, that Galaxy Z Fold may lay claim to being Samsung’s flagship device.

But for people who don’t want to take a risk on folding phones (and I don’t blame you), the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is Samsung’s best attempt at offering the best you can get on Android. The regular Note 20 is a lot less ambitious but still fairly pricey, probably thanks to those 5G radios. Whether either can live up to or exceed expectations is a question for the review — which we’ll bring to you later this month.

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Technology

Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S7 Plus tablet has a 120Hz OLED display and 5G

Android tablets may not be nearly as popular as Apple’s iPad, but that hasn’t stopped Samsung from continuing to dish out new models on a fairly regular basis. Today, the company is announcing its latest high-end Android tablets, the Galaxy Tab S7 and Tab S7 Plus. Both models will be available in silver, black, or bronze this fall for $649.99 and $849.99, respectively.

Like the Tab S6 from last year, the Tab S7 and S7 Plus are meant to pull double duty as both content consumption devices and productivity machines. As a result, the both have optional keyboard cases available ($199.99 for the S7, $229.99 for the S7 Plus) that allow you to use them like a traditional laptop. Both models also come with Samsung’s S Pen stylus in the box, which magnetically attaches and charges on the back of the tablet.

The most noticeable difference between the Tab S7 and S7 Plus are their sizes: the S7 has an 11-inch display, while the S7 Plus has a 12.4-inch model. Look closer and you’ll spot other differences, like the fact that the Plus model has a OLED panel, while the S7 makes do with a more traditional LCD. Both run at 120Hz for smooth visuals and both are larger than the 10.5-inch screen that was on the Tab S6. But they have a 16:10 aspect ratio, which makes them better suited for watching video than productivity and both models have considerably smaller surface area to work with compared to their iPad Pro counterparts.

The Tab S7 Plus’s 120Hz OLED screen promises to be a stunner (earbuds aren’t included)
Photo: Samsung

Another difference between the two is the Tab S7 Plus has an in-screen fingerprint scanner, while the Tab S7 has one built into its power button. Samsung has tweaked the design of the tablet, as well, sharpening the edges and trimming down the S Pen to a sleeker cylinder.

Samsung has given the internals an upgrade to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 Plus processor, 6 or 8GB of RAM, and up to 256GB of internal storage. (A microSD card slot is also available to expand the storage further.) Both models will be available in Wi-Fi or cellular versions, complete with millimeter wave and sub-6 5G connectivity. Both have quad speakers with Dolby Atmos tuning and support up to 45-watt charging on their USB-C ports. Neither have a headphone jack, unfortunately.

As Android tablets, the Tab S7 pair run Android 10 with Samsung’s OneUI customization on top of it. They also support Samsung’s DeX interface, which provides a more desktop like experience when you’re using a keyboard case. DeX, which has been around in various forms since the Galaxy S8 smartphone in 2017, has long been an interesting idea without the execution to back it up. We’ll have to see if Samsung’s improved it enough on the Tab S7 to see if it finally does live up to its promise.

A magnetic strip on the back of the tablet provides a place to store and charge the included S Pen stylus
Photo: Samsung

We’ll also have to see if Samsung’s traditional strengths — great displays, excellent sound — are enough to justify the high cost of the Tab S7 and Tab S7+. Last year’s Tab S6 was a tough sell at $650, now the company is asking even more money, at least for the larger model. They still aren’t as expensive as Apple’s iPad Pro models, and they come with the stylus in the box, which is an extra charge in Apple’s world. But once you add on the cost of the keyboard case, you’ll be over $1,000 for the base Tab S7 Plus, which is a lot of money for a tablet, no matter who makes it.

We’ll have more coverage on the Tab S7 and S7 Plus, including some real-world experience with a preproduction model and a full review in the future, so stay tuned.

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Technology

GE plans to give offshore wind energy a supercomputing boost

GE plans to harness the power of one of the world’s fastest supercomputers to propel offshore wind power development in the US. IBM’s Summit supercomputer at the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory will allow GE to simulate air currents in a way the company’s never been able to before.

Ultimately, the research could influence the design, control, and operations of future wind turbines. It’s also intended to advance the growth of wind power off the East Coast of the US by giving researchers a better grasp of the available wind resources in the Atlantic. The simulations Summit will run can fill in some of the gaps in the historical data, according to GE.

Offshore wind has the potential to provide almost twice the amount of electricity as the US’s current electricity usage, according to the American Wind Energy Association. But to make turbines that are hardier and more efficient offshore, researchers need more information. That’s where Summit comes in.

“It’s like being a kid in a candy store where you have access to this kind of a tool,” says Todd Alhart, GE’s research communications lead. The Summit supercomputer is currently ranked as the second fastest supercomputer in the world after Japan’s Fugaku, according to the Top500 supercomputer speed ranking.

GE’s research, to be conducted over the next year in collaboration with the DOE’s Exascale Computing Project, would be almost impossible to do without Summit. That’s because there’s usually a trade-off in their research between resolution and scale. They can typically study how air moves across a single rotor blade with high resolution, or they could examine a bigger picture — like a massive wind farm — but with blurrier vision. In this case, exascale computing should allow them to simulate the flow physics of an entire wind farm with a high enough resolution to study individual turbine blades as they rotate.

“That is really amazing, and cannot be achieved otherwise,” says Jing Li, GE research aerodynamics lead engineer.

Li and her team will focus on studying coastal low-level jets. These are air currents that don’t follow the same patterns as winds typically considered in traditional wind turbine design, which gradually increase in speed with height. Coastal low-level jet streams are “atypical,” according to Li, because wind speeds can rise rapidly up to a certain height before suddenly dropping away. These wind patterns are generally less common, but they occur more frequently along the US East Coast — which is why researchers want to better understand how they affect a turbine’s performance.

There’s been a growing appetite for offshore wind energy on the East Coast of the US. America’s first offshore wind farm was built off the coast of Rhode Island in 2016. A slate of East Coast wind farms is poised to come online over the next several years, with the largest expected to be a $1.6 billion project slated to be built off the coast of New Jersey by 2024.

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Tutorials

How To Make A Superhero Mask + 1 Superb Printable Template

Are you ready to teach your kids how to make a superhero mask?! I’ve created these templates in association with Belling,  helping families create tasty, nutritious meals since 1912.

Please note that this page may contain affiliate links

Belling have been kind enough to develop this campaign to help you keep your kids entertained during the holiday period. You can print out cape templates for the kids to colour and even grab a recipe book jam-packed full of Superhero recipes!

Because Superheroes are often seen eating less-than-nutritious meals on-screen, Belling has created some healthy alternatives for your little heroes to stay healthy.

How To Make A Superhero Mask + 1 Printable Template

When it comes to anything related to me, it has to be pastel or have the ability to fit into my colour palette.

It’s how I decorate, dress and it’s definitely a way of life. So, of course, I had to get girly on my Superhero masks. This is where we make girls the heroes. 

Pro Tip: Use all of the resources from this post to host a superhero party with your kids. You could make superhero recipes, design capes and make some pretty fabulous masks.

Supplies Needed To Make A Superhero Mask: 

How To Make A Superhero Mask -  the supplies required

How To Make A Superhero Mask: 

How To Make A Superhero Mask -  using the Slice precision blade

Step 1: Print your mask template on white cardstock and use scissors to cut out the shapes. You will then need to use the Slice precision blade cutter to remove the eyes. 

How To Make A Superhero Mask -  Slice ceramic blade knife

This was my first time using that craft knife and I found it much easier to use than standard x-acto blades! 

How To Make A Superhero Mask - using felt and a free printable template to make a fun craft project for kids

Step 2: Gather the fabric you will use for your mask and use the disappearing marker that quilter’s use to mark out the shapes on the fabric. 

If you are using felt that isn’t super stiff, you will need to either add packing tape to the back and trace the shapes onto the tape to cut Or something called Fusible Interfacing. Otherwise, you’ll have a floppy, fluffy, useless mask.

How To Make A Superhero Mask Shapes 1

I cut out lots of different shapes in different materials so I could swap any and just piece the masks together. 

How To Make A Superhero Mask - using felt, tacky glue and a free printable template to make a fun craft project for kids

Step 3: When you have pieced your masks together, use Aleene’s tacky glue to attach and allow ample time to dry. 

How To Make A Superhero Mask - elastic

Step 4: When the masks are drying, you can stretch the elastic around your kids heads to see how long it should be. 

Cut the appropriate length and make sure that it isn’t too taught. You must measure from temple to temple, with a little stretch that will be comfortable on a head and won’t cut the ears or dig in.

 

When you are happy with the length of elastic, and your masks are dry, staple the elastic to the mid-section on each side. 

Ta Da!

How To Make A Superhero Mask - using felt, tacky glue and a free printable template to make a fun craft project for kids

Making superhero masks is so easy and I had so much fun. Me and my Gal pal here (the frame) felt so empowered when wearing these.

How To Make A Superhero Mask - using felt, tacky glue and a free printable template to make a fun craft project for kids. Step by Step tutorial image

Staying at home with the kids for extended lengths of time, especially with the world we live in now. Having a fun activity you can do with your kids that could entertain them for hours to come. 

Related: 11 Awesome Crafts For Kids To Keep Them Busy

Get Your Kids To Take It Further And Stretch Their Imagination 

You could print out the masks and cape printable from Belling as well as that incredible recipe book packed full of nutritious treats. When decorating the masks and eating their snacks, they could use colouring pencils, watercolours, paint or even pasting paper shapes to decorate.

Belling makes everyday family life easier, from superhero capes to beautiful kitchen appliances. Every summer they host a marvellous event to the keep the kids busy when at home and this year is lots of fun!

Who doesn’t enjoy being a super hero?!

There are a lot of different supplies that they could use for different activities. You could also just use them as colouring pages, to begin with, if you don’t have time to teach them how to make a superhero mask with you. 

How To Make A Superhero Mask - using felt, tacky glue and a free printable template to make a fun craft project for kids. Whether you use cardboard or stiff fabric to add embellishments, the kids will love making this craft project idea. I love girly superhero masks! Download your free template, gather your supplies and start making

Disclosure of Material Connection:

This is a “sponsored post.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to write it. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

How To Make A Superhero Mask - using felt, tacky glue and a free printable template to make a fun craft project for kids. Whether you use cardboard or stiff fabric to add embellishments, the kids will love making this craft project idea. I love girly superhero masks! Download your free template, gather your supplies and start making
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