Engadget is a web magazine with obsessive daily coverage of everything new in gadgets and consumer electronics

Engadget is a web magazine with obsessive daily coverage of everything new in gadgets and consumer electronics

Face ID on the iPhone 13 stops working if a third-party replaces the phone's display 28 Sep 2021, 12:56 am

With the addition of features like a 120Hz display on some models, Apple’s iPhone 13 lineup is many ways a step above the phones the company shipped last year. But when it comes to the question of repairability, the story is more complicated. Conducting a teardown of the device, iFixit found it couldn’t get the iPhone 13’s Face ID feature to work if replaced the phone’s display. No matter what workaround it tried, iFixit could not get Face ID to work again. By its estimation, the display on the iPhone 13 lineup is serial-locked to the device. “Right now, if you replace your screen, Apple kills your Face ID, unless they control the repair,” the company warns.

While obviously not a good look for Apple, there may be a simple explanation for what’s happening. iFixit says it spoke to a licensed repair technician who said they were told by Apple support that the issue is a bug the company plans to fix in a future iOS release. We’ve reached out to Apple for more information. If it turns that limitation is not a mistake, it would be a brazen move on Apple’s part given that the FTC, at the behest of President Joe Biden, recently voted unanimously to tackle unlawful repair restrictions.

Facebook will publish some of its research on teens and Instagram 28 Sep 2021, 12:25 am

Facebook will publish two internal slide decks detailing its research into how Instagram affects teens’ mental health sometime “in the next few days.” Speaking at an online event hosted by The Atlantic, the company’s policy chief Nick Clegg said the company would release the data to Congress before making it available to the public.

“We're just making sure that all the Ts are crossed and the Is are dotted so that we can release it both to Congress and then to the public in the next few days," Clegg said of the slides, some of which have already been made public. His comments more than 10 days after The Wall Street Journalpublished an investigation into how Instagram affects the teens who use it. Citing internal research conducted by Facebook, The Journal wrote that “Instagram is harmful for a sizable percentage” of teens, particularly teenage girls.

The investigation prompted immediate pushback from lawmakers, many of whom were already wary of Facebook’s handling of child safety, and its plans to build a version of its service for children under 13. On Monday, Instagram said it would “pause” that work in order to create more “parental supervision tools.” Members of Congress responded saying they want the company to end the project entirely. Facebook’s head of safety is scheduled to testify at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the subject Thursday.

Now, Facebook seems to be hoping that releasing more of its underlying research could help address concerns from lawmakers and others. In a separate statement published Sunday, the company’s top researcher suggested that The Wall Street Journal had mischaracterized its research. Clegg went a step further Monday, saying that the reporting based on documents “leaked by someone who clearly feels they have some points to make.”

“If you read the decks, and then compare it with some of the assertions that, you know, Instagram is toxic for all teens and so on, I don't think any reasonable person … would say that the research sustains that claim,” Clegg said. “When the dust settles people will see that we're just sincerely trying to kind of — like external researchers — are trying to work out what the complex relationship is between individuals, given their own individual circumstances, and their lives and their use of social media.”

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed the company would release “two decks” that were central to The Journal report, but didn’t elaborate on the timing of the release.

But the decks alone are unlikely to quiet Facebook’s critics. For one, Facebook’s own rebuttal of The Wall Street Journal reporting appears to undermine the significance of its own research. “This research, some of which relied on input from only 40 teens, was designed to inform internal conversations about teens’ most negative perceptions of Instagram,” Facebook VP Pratiti Raychoudhury wrote. “It did not measure causal relationships between Instagram and real-world issues.”

It also raises questions about how Facebook will present the data it does make public. Last month, the company released a report on “widely viewed content” on its platform. The report was meant to rebuff criticism that News Feed favors polarizing content. But researchers outside the company quickly poked holes in the report, and said it was emblematic of Facebook’s larger transparency issues, particularly when it comes to working with outside researchers.

Which is why it’s notable that Clegg would invoke “external researchers” in his defense of the company. If Instagram isn’t actually harmful to most teens, as the company is claiming, then researchers not on Facebook’s payroll may be positioned to credibly make that point. Yet researchers say the company has made data increasingly difficult to access. And in some cases, the company has actively blocked outsiders from studying its platform, like when it recently disabled the personal Facebook accounts of researchers at New York University and then provided “misleading” explanations about its reasons for doing so, according to the FTC. (Incidentally, the researcher at the center of that controversy is testifying in a separate Congressional hearing this week.)

They may seem like unrelated issues. But if Facebook had better relationships with researchers outside the company, and made more of its own findings public it might be better able to head off internal critics who “have some points to make.”

Twitch partners with Warner Music to host original music programming 27 Sep 2021, 11:41 pm

One week after coming to terms with the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA), Twitch has signed a deal with Warner Music Group. In partnering with the record label, a first for the Amazon-owned platform, the company says Warner Music will launch dedicated channels for some of its artists, including the likes of Bella Poarch and Saweetie. The label will also create a standalone channel that will air original programming from its IMGN production house.

But if you’re a content creator on Twitch, those are secondary to the other part of the deal. Much like its pact with the NMPA, this isn’t a licensing agreement; creators can’t include music from WMG artists in their streams. As part of the agreement, WMG has agreed to use the new process Twitch recently put in place to allow rights holders to report content. In an email last week to creators, the company said the new system is more forgiving towards individuals who may have inadvertently played music they weren’t authorized to use. 

'Babylon 5' is getting a reboot 27 Sep 2021, 10:38 pm

Some 23 years after its original run, Babylon 5 is making its way back to TV. According to Variety, The CW has ordered a reboot of the seminal sci-fi series. What’s more, original creator J. Michael Straczynski is attached to the project.

That’s good news because Straczynski penned 92 of the 110 episodes that make up Babylon 5. At the moment, there are relatively few details on the production, but what we do know is that it’s being billed as a “from-the-ground-up reboot.” None of the original actors from the series, including Bruce Boxleitner, are currently attached to the project, but that may change. With its sometimes dated visuals, it can be hard to see what makes Babylon 5 so special. However, in many ways, it was ahead of its time. It told a serialized story long before shows like The Wire popularized the format.

Skype reveals a colorful redesign, new features and performance upgrades 27 Sep 2021, 10:16 pm

Skype has some significant changes in the works. It offered a peek at what's coming later this year, with a focus on speed, reliability and design, as well as other improvements. For one thing, video calls (on what Skype calls the "call stage") are getting a visual overhaul. New layouts and themes are on the way. You'll be able to see yourself on the main view while you're on a call, though you can hide your feed if you'd rather not look at your own face.

Video feeds are being rearranged into a grid to avoid relegating folks to a minimized view. Instead everyone on the call, including those who aren't sharing video, will be visible. You'll see larger video feeds in the top bar too.

Skype video call redesign

There are several viewing options for the call stage, including speaker view, grid view, a large gallery and Together Mode (which makes seem like everyone's in the same space). You can also opt only to include people who are sharing video in the grid or switch the video stream off completely. Audio-only participants can use one of the app's background replacement images while on a call, rather than grey nothingness.

More colorful themes are in the pipeline, with features including gradients for buttons and for users without avatars. Meanwhile, "the beauty of the left side panel screams art, balance and lightness," says Skype, giving perhaps its best Apple impression.

Redesigned Skype Meet Now invite, with a name and avatar for the call

Skype is also redesigning Meet Now, which allows people to join calls without signing up or installing the app. Invitation links are getting a new look, as invitees will see the name and avatar of your call. The service says it will soon support all browsers as well.

In addition, Skype is working on performance. It claims it has boosted performance "in key scenarios" by almost a third on the desktop app and by over 2,000 percent on Android. Also new or on the way are custom notification sounds, and an updated reactions window that lets you respond more quickly by searching or using pinned reactions.

Elsewhere, you can use Office Lens on the Skype mobile app to share scanned documents, photos and videos. A new feature called TwinCam will let you add a video feed from a second device to your call. That could be handy if you want to show off your pet, or let students see your textbook and your face at the same time. Just scan a QR code with your iOS or Android device to get started.

Skype TwinCam feature

Democratic lawmakers say Facebook 'must completely abandon' Instagram Kids 27 Sep 2021, 9:46 pm

Mere hours after Facebook said it was pausing work on Instagram Kids, a group of Democratic lawmakers has called on the company to instead completely abandon the project. Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal and Representatives Kathy Castor and Lori Trahan say Facebook’s decision to halt development is “insufficient.”

“Facebook has completely forfeited the benefit of the doubt when it comes to protecting young people online and it must completely abandon this project,” the group said in a joint statement on Monday. They’re the same four lawmakers who told Facebook earlier in the year they had “serious concerns” about the project when they first learned about it.

Facebook said it was suspending work on Instagram Kids after The Wall Street Journalpublished a report that claimed the company had ignored its own research on the harm apps like Instagram can do to young people. The company quickly refuted that piece, saying its studies showed young people could have both positive and negative experiences interacting with social media. The company will have to answer questions on its research later this week when the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee holds a hearing on the matter on Thursday.

Google created illustrations you can use as profile pictures 27 Sep 2021, 8:40 pm

Not everyone is comfortable with using a photo of themselves as a profile picture, and others might find it tough to find an image that represents them appropriately. To help you find something that works, Google has revealed its first batch of Google Illustrations.

When you set your profile picture in Gmail, Google Workspace, Contacts on Android, you can select an illustration. Options include animals, mythical creatures, locations and hobbies. Google says the initial batch of illustrations "is inclusive of various cultures, interests and backgrounds." You can customize them by changing the colors and cropping the image.

Once you've selected and tweaked an illustration to your liking and saved it, your contacts will see it across several Google products. Google says it will expand the collection and bring illustrations to additional products and platforms, including iOS and the web.

'Resident Evil 4' VR remake hits Oculus Quest 2 on October 21st 27 Sep 2021, 8:09 pm

Halloween's coming, and so too is a virtual-reality remake of a Resident Evil game. The latest version of Resident Evil 4 will arrive as an Oculus Quest 2 exclusive on October 21st at 10AM ET.

Capcom announced the remake back in April. The Gamecube classic has been retooled for VR by Oculus Studios and Armature Studio. You'll control Leon from a first-person perspective rather than looking over his shoulder. Several aspects, such as combat and inventory management, were reworked to take advantage of VR.

You can use physical movements to pick up and use weapons and items. Instead of switching to a menu to swap guns, you can grab a different one from your holster. Whether you play standing or seated is up to you, as there's support for teleportation and room-scale movement, though you'll primarily use the analog stick for navigation.

Roblox and music publishers settle $200 million copyright lawsuit 27 Sep 2021, 7:37 pm

Back in June, the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) hit Roblox with a $200 million lawsuit for allowing players to illegally use music on stream. Now, some three months later, the two have resolved their differences. On Monday, Roblox and the NMPA announced a settlement agreement that includes an opt-in option for NMPA members to negotiate their own licensing deals with the gaming platform. The financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed by the two organizations.

The deal follows a similar one the NMPA announced with Twitch last week. That agreement doesn’t give creators access to songs they can use on stream. Instead, it creates a new reporting mechanism for copyright infringement that starts with a warning instead of a penalty. In an email, Twitch told users the new process is more forgiving to individuals who may have inadvertently played music they weren’t authorized to use.

Apple details 3D maps rollout plan for iOS 15 27 Sep 2021, 7:17 pm

Apple is slowly but surely rolling out 3D city views in the Maps app. Starting today, you can now pinch and zoom your way across a three-dimensional render of London. Apple switched on the experience for New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles last week as part of the iOS 15 release.

The feature will be enabled in Washington DC, San Diego and Philadelphia by the end of the year. Apple is bringing 3D maps to Canada next year, in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

In the 3D maps, you'll see elevation details throughout each city, along with new road labels and landmarks such as LA's Dodger Stadium, the Statue of Liberty and the Royal Albert Hall in London. A nighttime mode casts a moonlit glow over the maps at dusk.

Apple says the app will soon offer improved navigation through CarPlay. Public transit riders might find it easier to get around too. If you enter your route, the app can notify you when it's time to get off the bus or subway. You can also see step-by-step walking directions in augmented reality after scanning nearby buildings to determine your position and orientation.

Google Stadia on TVs will let you use your phone as the gamepad 27 Sep 2021, 7:00 pm

You don't need to use the official Stadia Controller if you want to use Google's game streaming service on your TV — or any dedicated controller, for that matter. Google is rolling out a feature that lets TV-bound Stadia players use their Android phone or iPhone as a virtual gamepad. You can also use third-party gamepads by connecting them to your phone through Bluetooth or USB.

The widened controller support requires Android TV, Google TV or a Chromecast Ultra. In most cases, you'll need to either add a controller or enable the touch gamepad through the Stadia mobile app, and promptly choose "play on TV." Android TV and Google TV owners will also need to enable a controller through the avatar section on the big-screen Stadia app.

This might help boost Stadia's adoption. While it has long given you the flexibility of where you can play, you haven't had many choices for that setup. It's now relatively easy to use a favorite gamepad with your TV or, if you prefer, save a little money and use no gamepad at all. It won't be perfect, however. A phone's touchscreen can only do so much, and using your phone as a go-between is bound to add a little latency.

'Life is Strange: Remastered Collection' will arrive on February 1st, 2022 27 Sep 2021, 6:50 pm

Square Enix has put Life is Strange: Remastered Collection back on the release calendar. The updated versions of Life is Strange and Life is Strange: Before the Storm will arrive on February 1st, 2022.

The collection will include remastered visuals for characters and the environments, along with a new engine and upgraded lighting. There will be full motion-captured facial animations in Life is Strange, and you'll get access to the deluxe Before the Storm content, including the "Farewell" episode.

The publisher originally planned to release the bundle on September 30th, but delayed it in August to "alleviate any additional pressure on the Life is Strange team." Life is Strange: True Colors dropped earlier this month, and an expansion will be available this Thursday.

Life is Strange: Remastered Collection is coming to Steam, Google Stadia, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and, through backward compatibility, PS5 and Xbox Series X/S.

TikTok now has 1 billion monthly users 27 Sep 2021, 6:40 pm

Nearly five years after Twitter shut down Vine, TikTok has reached the coveted 1 billion monthly active user mark. The company announced the milestone in a blog post on Monday. Attracting 1 billion users to any platform is a significant feat. However, TikTok’s rise in popularity is especially impressive when you consider almost exactly a year ago the Trump Administration was threatening to ban the app if ByteDance, TikTok’s Bejing-based parent company, didn’t sell it to an American buyer.

Then you have the speed at which TikTok achieved the feat. The app has only been widely available since 2018 — though you could download it in select markets as early as 2017. It took Instagram nearly eight years after its initial release and almost six years after it was acquired by Facebook in 2012 before it passed the 1 billion user threshold. Granted, the internet was a smaller place then with fewer people connected to it through their phones, but none of that takes away from TikTok’s ascent.

Facebook will open up the Oculus Go to tinkerers with an unlocked OS 27 Sep 2021, 6:10 pm

Facebook will soon let folks who still have an Oculus Go do so much more with the virtual reality headset. The company will release an unlocked build of the operating system, which users can sideload to get full root access and do just about anything they want with the device.

Oculus consulting CTO John Carmack made the announcement in a tweet spotted by The Verge. Carmack clarified this only applies to Oculus Go, and not Oculus Quest. He noted that he'd been pushing for the move for years and that "getting all the necessary permissions for this involved so much more effort [than] you would expect."

Although Facebook discontinued Oculus Go last year to focus on Quest headsets, it's nice to hear it hasn't forgotten about the older model entirely. The unlocked OS could ensure that Go headsets won't be totally obsolete.

Carmack pointed out that the build will let anyone who finds an unopened Go in the future update the headset to the final version of the OS — even after the servers are closed. He also expressed hope that this will set a "precedent for when headsets go unsupported in the future."

When the build is ready, Carmack said it will likely be available through the Oculus website. However, he suggested Facebook has yet to finalize the distribution plan.

YouTube Music with offline listening comes to Wear OS 2 27 Sep 2021, 6:00 pm

YouTube Music is rolling out to some Wear OS 2 smartwatches starting today. Gen 6 smartwatches from Fossil and Michael Kors will be able to stream music from the service, as will Mobvoi’s TicWatch Pro 3 GPS, Pro 3 Cellular/LTE and E3 models. The app was previously released for Wear OS 3 and the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4.

It's the first YouTube Music smartwatch app that supports offline listening. If you're a YouTube Music Premium subscriber, you can download songs you can listen to offline and without ads. You'll be able to leave your phone at home and still listen to music while you work out or go for a walk.

The app includes the Smart Downloads feature, which updates the songs on your device when it connects to WiFi. Google says Premium subscribers can listen to more than 80 million songs and thousands of playlists from their wearable. The app, which is available through the Google Play Store, will hit more Wear OS 2 devices later this year.

Spotify rolled out an updated version of its Wear OS app last month. It also lets users download music to their smartwatch and stream tracks without the need to have a phone nearby.

‘Metroid Dread’ had me screaming my head off 27 Sep 2021, 4:00 pm

Thanks to my parents, I was introduced to Monty Python pretty young. And the family that watches absurdist British comedy together… has a lot of in-jokes. For example, Any time we’re, say, outside when it starts raining and we all scurry for shelter, someone in my family is bound to scream in a silly voice, “Run away! Run away!” That person was me while playing Metroid Dread, not just because it’s a fun thing to say — it’s the only way to survive that game for the first hour or so.

Metroid Dread is the fifth of the 2D adventures (not counting remakes) and the first new 2D installment in 19 years, since Metroid Fusion in 2002. And yet, I probably haven’t played a Metroid game since the ‘80s or ‘90s, so I was happy to see that the basic formula hasn’t changed. It’s still an exploration game where you’re trapped in a series of underground facilities and must find your way out by destroying enemies, blowing up walls, and squeezing through tight passages. 

That last one has been upgraded, at least. While you’ll still eventually gain Samus’ famous morph ball technique, at the start of the game you can instead do a crouch-slide through tunnels by hitting L1. It’s kind of fun, except that there’s a bit of a learning curve in figuring out which passages are for sliding and which are for rolling. As you unlock new abilities, you can, of course, revisit old locations to attain items you couldn’t reach the first time around.

Samus sliding under a wall

The story kicks off a little while after the end of Metroid Fusion, with Samus Aran once more being called upon to track down and destroy the parasitic creatures known as “X.” Familiarity with the previous game isn’t vital to understanding Dread, except that Samus can still absorb X nuclei to recharge her energy, and she remains susceptible to cold. Both of these traits come into play rather early in the game. Early on, Samus is attacked by what appears to be a super-strong Chozo, losing her old equipment and abilities in the process (as is tradition). This puts her and the player back to square one, which certainly draws out the story but may frustrate long-time players. I understand why the game does this, but I still get annoyed because it’s a huge cliché at this point. I can only hope the payoff to the mystery of who this huge, unstoppable enemy is ends up being worth it.

In fairness, it doesn’t seem any of those old tools would help with the new stealth elements of the game. You see, the facility is guarded by gangly giant robots called EMMI (“Extraplanetary Multiform Mobile Identifier”) that will stab you in the neck if they catch you. It’s a pretty visceral bit of animation, even if it cuts out before anything particularly gory. You can attempt a melee attack to knock them off, but in my dozen close encounters with the robots I never got that tactic to work once.

Samus clings to a wall while firing at a creature

Instead, the game debuts a few new tools as you play that will help, like a spider magnet that lets you cling to ceilings and other high surfaces. The most valuable ability we’ve seen in previews so far is a cloaking field that will hide you from an EMMI while draining your energy (and eventually, life) bar. But both of these, along with more powerful weaponry, have to be picked up later in the game.

When you’ve just arrived on the planet, however, the biggest survival tactic in your arsenal will be running. Lots and lots of running and jumping and getting the hell out of there. The game will sort of warn you when one of the robots is nearby, and you can attempt to stay just out of range. A blue field means it’s just sort of around, yellow means it’s aware of your presence, and on red you better run like hell. Your best bet is to stay unnoticed, a task made somewhat trickier by the fact that this stealth game lacks a lot of stealth game mechanics. Crouching behind boxes does nothing, and you can’t slide up against the wall to go unnoticed. Nor do the EMMI subscribe to the “out of sight, out of mind” philosophy: They will follow you into another room and, if you slip into an area where they cannot follow, they will try to find a way in.

Samus Aran firing the Omega Stream at an EMMI

The EMMI are quite fast, which makes the game itself quite ruthless. A few of my untimely deaths were due to being chased by one of the robots and not knowing where to go next. This game can be very unforgiving when you’ve just started exploring.

Still, despite being a Metroid newbie I found it engaging. Even as I got stabbed in the neck repeatedly I was always scanning the environment before the game blacked out, looking for the point where I screwed up and could do better. I only had 90 or so minutes with the game, so I didn’t have the luxury of slamming my head up against the wall to figure it all out. But when Metroid Dread comes out on October 8th, I am looking forward to having all the time to scream my head off and… run, run, run.

The Switch OLED is a strong contender for most gorgeous handheld ever 27 Sep 2021, 4:00 pm

Nintendo makes good hardware, but I don’t know if I’d ever personally describe any of it as “beautiful.” The GameCube was cute; I loved the clamshell design of the Game Boy Advance SP; and I still have fond memories of the SNES’s dogbone controller. But the Switch? I’m just sort of “okay” with it. It’s never been a piece of a hardware that screamed “touch me” — until now, with the upcoming OLED model.

Metroid Dread, Samus Aran shooting at blobs
Kris Naudus / Engadget

Set to come out October 8th, the marquee feature of the new Switch is its larger, sharper screen. It’s been bumped up to a 7-inch OLED from the 6.2-inch LCD of the original. I got to spend about an hour and a half with it and, though I couldn’t compare the two systems side by side, I certainly noticed the difference when I got home. I fumbled for the brightness settings on my OG Switch only to sadly realize they were at max. The OLED is bright, crisp and gosh-darn beautiful. The original Switch display still looks good, but the new screen is great.

Left Joy-Con with screen and hand visible
Kris Naudus / Engadget

The game shown in my demo was the upcoming Metroid Dread, which comes out the same day as basically a “launch title” for the refreshed system. It’s a good choice given the dark, sometimes claustrophobic settings of the Metroid series. It’s easy enough to see every passage and to distinguish the impassable bricks from the ones you’re supposed to blow up. The game will still be playable on a regular Switch or Switch Lite, but it feels like the game was meant to be seen on the new hardware.

Narrow power and volume buttons
Kris Naudus / Engadget

And it’s more than just that larger display. It’s still the same basic shape and size but somehow feels more svelte, despite being heavier than the original. The volume and power buttons along the top are narrower, a design choice I’m not crazy about even though I didn’t find them particularly hard to press. (I think I just prefer the feel of a circular button over an oval-shaped one.)

Back of Nintendo Switch with wider kickstand
Kris Naudus / Engadget

The new kickstand is also pretty great, stretching all the way across the back of the system instead of the original’s flimsy vertical strip that fell off if you looked at it funny. Sure, the new one takes a little more effort to pull it out but it’s worth it for the extra sturdiness and reliability. And, be still my heart, it’s actually adjustable, though I didn’t make use of this much since I preferred to play the system in handheld mode. It just felt… good. And the new black and white color scheme looks great in person. I’ve always been a sucker for the panda look, and would have preferred this to the all-gray system I started with back in 2017.

All that said, I didn’t have enough time to test the battery life with the new screen, or see how many games I can cram onto the 64 GB of storage. Until I know how long it’ll last in the wild I’m not sure if this is a must-upgrade, but just looking at a Switch OLED in person, I found it hard to resist.

Anker's one-day sale knocks up to 45 percent off portable batteries and chargers 27 Sep 2021, 3:50 pm

Amazon's latest one-day sale on Anker devices presents a good opportunity to grab a charging brick for that new iPhone you just bought. The sale includes up to 45 percent off a handful of Anker accessories, including the Nano 20W charger in the new lavender grey color that came out recently. That's $5 off and down to $15, while the standard white Anker Nano charger with a foldable plug is on sale for $12.

Shop Anker one-day sale at AmazonBuy Anker Nano 20W (lavender grey) at Amazon - $15Buy Anker Nano 20W (white) at Amazon - $12

Either of these bricks makes a good substitute for Apple's own 20W charger, which is bulkier and slightly more expensive at $19. Both support iPhone fast-charging with the proper USB-C to Lightning cable and they also work with other USB-C devices like other smartphones, wearables, earbuds and even the Nintendo Switch (just be aware that, for the latter, neither support charge-and-play in TV mode).

We've also been fans of Anker portable battery packs and two are included in this sale. The 10,000mAh PowerCore Slim is down to $28 and can charge an iPhone 12 up to 50 percent in 30 minutes. It includes one 18W USB-C port and one 10W USB-A port, so it'll power up even your older devices. You're only getting the battery pack with that deal, but Anker has another 10,000mAh, 18W PowerCore Slim bundle that includes the battery along with a USB-C cable and the compatible charging brick for $30, or 25 percent off its normal price. This is the bundle to get if you don't want to worry about finding an appropriate brick to recharge the battery itself — the PowerPort III Nano charger that comes with it will fully power up the battery pack in 4.5 hours. 

Buy PowerCore Slim 10,000mAh (battery only) at Amazon - $28Buy PowerCore Slim 10,000mAh bundle at Amazon - $30

Those are the highlights in this sale, but there are a few other gadgets that have been discounted. A couple of wireless chargers are on sale, including a magnetic PowerWave disc that looks similar to Apple's MagSafe charger, and you can get a two-pack of three-foot, MFi-certified Powerline+ II USB-C to Lightning cables for $20, or 46 percent off its normal price.

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

Facebook is ‘pausing’ work on Instagram Kids app amid growing scrutiny 27 Sep 2021, 3:46 pm

Facebook has announced that it's "pausing" its Instagram Kids project in order to "work with parents, experts and policymakers to demonstrate the value and need for this product." The announcement follows criticism from 44 state attorneys general who asked Facebook to abandon the project, and a request from Democratic lawmakers for more detail about the project. 

The Instagram team said that it was building the app to get around the problem of kids accessing Instagram without parental permission. "We started this project to address an important problem seen across our industry: kids are getting phones younger and younger, misrepresenting their age, and downloading apps that are meant for those 13 or older," wrote Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri. 

At the same time, the company rejected the idea it was capitulating due to criticism. "Critics of 'Instagram Kids' will see this as an acknowledgement that the project is a bad idea. That’s not the case," Mosseri wrote. "The reality is that kids are already online, and we believe that developing age-appropriate experiences designed specifically for them is far better for parents than where we are today."

An important part of what we’ve been developing for 'Instagram Kids' is a way for parents to supervise their child’s use of Instagram. While we’re pausing our development of 'Instagram Kids,' we’ll continue our work to allow parents to oversee their children’s accounts by expanding these tools to teen accounts (aged 13 and over) on Instagram.

Some of the issues raised about the project revolve around Facebook's problems with privacy and particularly child safety. "Not only is social media an influential tool that can be detrimental to children who are not of appropriate age, but this plan could place children directly in the paths of predators," New York state attorney general Letitia James said when the project first came to light. 

Most recently, TheWall Street Journal published an article claiming that Facebook has knowingly ignored its own research showing that Instagram is toxic to the mental health of younger people. Yesterday, the social network refuted that article as well, saying its research said that young people had "both positive and negative experiences with social media," among other things.

Facebook pointed out that both YouTube and TikTok have versions of their apps for kids under 13. It also said that Instagram Kids would not be the same as Instagram is now, and is meant for tweens between 10 and 12 years old, not younger children. 

"It will require parental permission to join, it won’t have ads, and it will have age-appropriate content and features," according to Mosseri. He also pointed out that Facebook has implemented several new measures on issues like body image, encouraging people to look at other topics or take a break if they're dwelling on negative content. 

However, lawmakers don't like even the idea of the app, regardless of intent. "The alternative approach that Facebook appears poised to take — specifically, pushing kids to sign up for a new platform that may itself pose threats to young users’ privacy and wellbeing — involves serious challenges and may do more harm than good," wrote a group of Democratic lawmakers. 

Beyond Meat's plant-based 'chicken' tenders are coming to grocery stores 27 Sep 2021, 3:30 pm

Beyond Meat brought its plant-based “chicken” tenders to restaurants this summer, and soon you'll be able to enjoy them at home when Beyond starts selling them through retailers. You'll find the $5 tenders at Walmart and other major grocery chains starting in October, though only in select markets. Beyond expects to expand availability later this year.

The company says its tenders have 50 percent less saturated fat than ones made with actual chicken, and have no GMOs, antibiotics, hormones or cholesterol. Beyond uses faba beans rather than a soy-based recipe in its attempt to replicate the taste and texture of a chicken tender. It says you'll be able to heat up the pre-cooked tenders in under 10 minutes.

Along with Walmart, Beyond's tenders will be available at some Jewel-Osco, Safeway NorCal, Harris Teeter, Giant Foods and ShopRite stores at the outset. Meanwhile, Beyond says it's increasing availability of its products at Walmart. It'll bring Breakfast Sausage Patties to more than 1,300 additional stores, while more locations will offer Beyond Meatballs and Beyond Beef Crumbles.

It's been a busy month in the plant-based meat alternative ecosystem. Beyond competitor Impossible started selling its "chicken" nuggets in restaurants a few weeks ago. Impossible also announced that restaurants will offer its version of ground pork in their dishes this fall.

Uno Synth Pro review: IK Multimedia shows it's serious about hardware 27 Sep 2021, 3:00 pm

The original Uno Synth was IK Multimedia’s surprise entry into the world of budget-minded hardware instruments. It wasn’t just a surprise that the company, best known for its iPhone-friendly MIDI controllers and plug-ins, decided to make a synthesizer, but that it also went full analog — an area where it didn’t have much pedigree. The results were mixed, but the general consensus was that the Uno’s core sound was impressive. Now IK is trying to move up a weight class with the Uno Synth Pro — a three-voice paraphonic synth with its crosshairs squarely aimed at the likes of the Korg Minilogue.

Of course, as with most musical instruments, there is no apples-to-apples comparison. So whether you’re better off spending your synth dollar on an Uno Pro or on something else will depend on your priorities.

The Uno Synth Pro comes in two different flavors: the standard Pro with a 37-key Fatar keybed and a partially metal chassis; and a smaller Desktop model with a set of touch keys and an all-plastic body. The Pro version costs $650, while the Desktop is just $400. I tested the Desktop model, so I can’t tell you much about the feel of the more expensive one, but if you already own a decent MIDI controller and don’t plan on gigging with the Uno Synth, save yourself the cash; they’re otherwise exactly the same instrument.

Under the hood are three oscillators with continuous wave shaping from triangle to saw to square (with pulse width modulation). There are options for hard sync, ring modulation and FM, plus two envelopes, two LFOs, two filters, analog overdrive and a selection of 12 digital effects. In short, there are plenty of options for sound design, especially when you consider the 16-slot modulation matrix.

Physically, the Uno Synth Pro Desktop is a bit of a mixed bag. The overall construction is plastic, and certainly feels it, but it’s solid enough. The knobs offer a good amount of resistance and the buttons are decent. The same is true of the screen: It’s small but gives you all the info you need. The gray, black and red color scheme can make quickly spotting the controls you’re looking for a bit difficult, especially the secondary and shift functions. (On a dark stage they’d be impossible to find.)

The four knobs at the top are used to change almost all the parameters by navigating a grid beneath it. I’ll admit that the interface isn’t my favorite. But in order to keep costs down while preserving as much flexibility as possible IK Multimedia went with a light-up grid instead of a knob per-function design. It’s a decision I could quibble with, but one that I can accept. Also, it’s worth noting that if you want to get real specific with a parameter it’s better to use the endless encoder to the right of the screen after selecting your target with the four pots to the left.

Uno Synth Pro Desktop
Terrence O'Brien / Engadget Terrecn

The biggest problem, however, is with the touch keys and strips. Now, to be clear, this criticism does not apply to the full-sized version with a proper keybed, only the desktop model. But, to be blunt: The capacitive keys and touch strips are not good. They can feel unresponsive. Occasionally, the Uno Synth would straight up fail to detect my touches. And putting the synth in three-voice paraphonic mode seemed to make things worse. The same is true of the pitch and mod strips; sometimes they’d fail to register my touch or react slowly to it. The mod strip in particular is easy to trip up if you move your finger too fast and it has a tendency to jump between values rather than smoothly glide between them. If you plan to actually play your Uno Synth Pro (rather than use an external sequencer or controller) I highly recommend you spring for the full-sized version with the keybed and pitch and mod wheels.

The Uno Synth Pro does have a pretty solid arpeggiator and sequencer, though, so there’s a chance you can get by without having to ever touch the “keys” on the desktop version. There is also a scale mode in the settings that disables the black keys and maps the white ones to the scale of your choice. Which, at the very least, makes it less likely that you’ll sound out of key if your finger lands three millimeters to the right of where you intended.

Uno Synth Pro Desktop
Terrence O'Brien / Engadget

And look, I get that touch keys are hard to do right. They were bad on the original Uno Synth. They’re bad on Modal’s Skulpt and Craft synths. The Volca’s are slightly better, but still quite cramped. Honestly, the only synth I can think of where the touch keys aren’t a liability is the MicroFreak. (And there are probably people who would disagree with me even on that.)

Many of the frustrations I have with the interface and physical controls are immediately forgotten once the Uno Synth Pro starts making noise, though. In short, it sounds glorious. Especially with all three of its oscillators stacked in mono mode. While the Pro is a three-voice paraphonic instrument, I think it’s at its best when treated as an extremely beefy mono synth. The oscillators have a lot of body and grit to them. The triangle is glassy but dusty and the saw wave just plain rips. Add a bit more dirt from the analog drive circuit and you’ve got a truly gnarly sounding machine for leads and basses.

The oscillators can also be hard synced, there’s pulse width modulation (though no dedicated knob for it), ring modulation and FM for more metallic sounds. The FM function, though, is slightly hidden in the menus, which is a shame. It’s a valuable sound design tool that’s just not as accessible as it should be thanks to some questionable interface decisions.

IK Multimedia Uno Synth Pro Desktop
Terrence O'Brien / Engadget

The dual analog filters are also lovely. The multimode two-pole filter from the original Uno Synth is here and it’s just as juicy as ever. It can be a bit aggressive, but that’s part of its charm and it really hits the spot if you’re into acid basslines. Then there’s a switchable SSI-based lowpass filter with two and four-pole modes. It’s a little subtler than the multimode option, but with the resonance cranked it will self-oscillate and scream.

The two filters on their own are solid enough. But special things happen when you combine the two. They really allow you to start pulling out unique timbres. You can run them in series to create effectively notch or bandpass filters, or in parallel using each to pull out slightly different tones and then combining them into something new. There’s even an audio-in jack on the back, so you can route any instrument you want through the Uno Pro’s filters and effects. It’s just a shame that it’s an ⅛-inch jack instead of a ¼-inch.

IK Multimedia Uno Synth Pro Desktop

Speaking of the built-in effects, they’re pretty good. The reverbs are lush, the delays effective (if nothing special) and the modulation effects add some body. Not all of them are a home run and the controls are limited, but they do add a lot to the already impressive sound crafting tools at your disposal. The phaser and flanger are forgettable, but the Chorus is pretty solid, especially on the “string” algorithm. The reverse reverb, when combined with one of the delays, can even make the Uno Synth Pro a viable pad machine. Which is pretty impressive because, in paraphonic mode you only have a single amp envelope and you only get one oscillator per note, which can sound a bit thin.

I will say, though, that putting the synth in paraphonic mode and then dialing in a different sound for each voice is super fun and adds an interesting dimension to pad and key sounds. Because there’s a single amp envelope it’s hard to get anything really jittery and glitchy that way, but it does help beef up pads.

The final ingredient in the sound design here is the modulation matrix. This is where you can use the two envelopes or the two LFOs, or even the tuning of the oscillators to control everything from delay amount, to filter cut off, to wave shape, to the rate of an LFO. There are 16 modulation slots that you can fill to get subtle tone changes to bonkers EDM sound effects, with a total of 30 modulation sources and 35 destinations to mix and match.

IK Multimedia Uno Synth Pro Desktop
Terrence O'Brien / Engadget

The matrix does require some menu diving, but it’s pretty straightforward and incredibly powerful. Without it the Uno Synth Pro is a solid but unexciting instrument. But once you start delving into the modulation matrix it really starts to standout from the crowd.

Again, though, it does require menu diving to make the most of it. And this is really the biggest knock against the Uno Pro. I’m just not that interested in navigating sub-menus on a tiny screen on my hardware instruments. It makes me less likely to experiment and push the limits of a device.

IK Multimedia has apparently heard this complaint loud and clear and has built an editor app for macOS and Windows. This makes managing presets and programming the modulation matrix much easier. It puts all your options front and center and, other than switching tabs from the sound engine, to the matrix to the effects, there’s really not much menu diving to speak of. The app is also supposed to work as a VST plugin with your DAW of choice, but I couldn’t get that to work. It functioned fine in standalone mode, but every time I fired up Ableton and loaded the Uno Synth Pro Editor plugin, it failed to detect the instrument.

Uno Synth Pro Desktop Editor
Terrence O'Brien / Engadget

Keeping the Uno Synth Pro tethered to a computer over USB isn’t ideal, though. Ground loop hum is a real issue for devices in this price range, and the Uno Synth Pro is no different. I was actually able to hear it quietly recalibrating itself over and over thanks to the interference. The balanced outputs on the instrument can help, but even then it’s still pretty noisy and you need to have the balanced audio cables on hand. Standard “instrument” cables aren’t going to cut it here.

The desktop model even relies on micro-USB for power which is surprising and slightly annoying. The company did that so that you could power it with a battery pack while out and about, but there’s already a micro-USB port for MIDI, so having a second just for power is unnecessary.

The last downside I have to mention is that, just like the Uno Drum, the Uno Synth Pro feels unpolished. It goes beyond the somewhat frustrating interface and the mediocre build quality, though. The firmware is a bit buggy. As I mentioned earlier, the keys and touchstrips are unresponsive and jumpy at times. But I’ve also seen weird behaviors like the screen flickering and the audio getting choppy when I select a new preset. After about 30 second it settles down, but still, it’s worth noting. I also saw a full-on crash and freeze once.

IK Multimedia Uno Synth Pro Desktop

So the question becomes: Does the incredible sound of the Uno Synth Pro make up for its myriad annoyances? I’d say unequivocally yes if you’re looking for a feature-packed monosynth and don’t mind menu diving. There are plenty of other great sounding monophonic instruments out there for about the same price, like the Korg Monologue, but they lack the depth and feature set of the Uno Pro. Then there are high-end monos like the Moog Sub 37 that cost more than twice as much as the Uno Pro at $1,800.

The equation gets more complicated if you’re planning to make use of the Uno Pro in paraphonic mode for pads. I might consider spending your money elsewhere at that point. The original Minilogue still offers an incredible analog bang-for-your-buck and true polyphony. Then there’s the Minilogue XD, which is the same price as the full size Uno Synth Pro ($650), also has excellent effects, a combination of analog and digital oscillators, plus access to sound engines and effects developed by third parties for the ‘logue SDK.

And if you don’t demand analog, there’s the Arturia MicroFreak which offers as much depth on the sound design front as the Uno Pro, but for only $350 and its touch keys don’t make me want to rip my hair out.

My frustrations with the Uno Synth Pro’s interface aside, it’s hard not to be impressed with its wealth of sound design tools. And IK Multimedia didn’t cut any corners when it came to the quality of the oscillators and the filters. I will admit to being skeptical of the Uno Pro, but once I started exploring it I was a convert.

The Morning After: Already hyping the iPhone 14 27 Sep 2021, 2:15 pm

Is this a record? No sooner has the iPhone 13 hit store shelves than the rumor mill is already up and churning about the next one. Rumors from the weekend suggest the iPhone 14 will be a “complete redesign,” but the details are thin gruel at this point. Hold not these rumors close to your chest in hope, my friends, lest they disappear into a puff of whimsy.

This complete redesign will reportedly see the 14 look a lot more like the iPhone 4, with a band running around the outside of the device. That makes sense given how beloved the 4’s design was, and how those square edges have recently returned to Apple’s design language. The hints also suggest that, with a marginally thicker body, the camera lenses will be flush with the back.

Another rumor says the 14 may ditch the notch in favor of a hole-punch front camera, or maybe only for the Pro models. Plus, there are the usual rumor hits, including the launch of in-display TouchID and the end of the iPhone Mini. Just remember, we’re a year away from any of this being confirmed, so let’s focus instead on all the delights of the 13 we have yet to discover.

— Dan Cooper

Hubble telescope helps find six 'dead' galaxies from the early universe

The galaxies stopped growing despite a galactic baby boom.

Pullout and close-up views of two 'dead' early galaxies captured by both the Hubble Space Telescope and ALMA.
Image processing: Joseph DePasquale (STScI)

Astronomers using the Hubble telescope and Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) have found six “dead” galaxies. These are galaxies that have run out of the cold hydrogen necessary for star formation, despite being formed during the stellar equivalent of a baby boom. The discovery of these galaxies is testament both to the enduring power of the Hubble and the ingenuity of the astronomers to pull these images from the heavens. But the question of what happened to those galaxies is one that will dog scientists from now until we’ve developed some pretty impressive faster-than-light travel.

Continue Reading.

New iPad mini owners report 'jelly scrolling' problems

Not a good look for the brand new tablet.

Image of the iPad Mini on a stand.
Valentina Palladino

If your brand new iPad Mini is operating a little weird, don’t worry, you are not the only person in this particular predicament. There are multiple reports of users talking about jelly scrolling, where one side of the screen moves at a different rate to the other. Apple hasn’t responded yet to the claims, but it’s probably already scrambling to work out the cause as we speak. At the same time, Apple has reportedly revealed that TV+ has fewer than 20 million subscribers in the US and Canada. The reason for the potentially embarrassing admission? The smaller size apparently means it can pay its film and TV crews lower rates compared to Netflix.

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NASA's AR graphic novel is meant to recruit a new wave of astronauts

‘First Woman’ tells the tale of Callie Rodriguez as she walks on the moon.

Image from NASA graphic novel 'First Woman'

To celebrate National Comic Book Day, NASA has published a graphic novel, First Woman, to tell the story of the first woman to walk on the moon. The (currently fictional) tale is designed to spark the public’s interest in the Artemis missions and encourage more people to sign up as astronauts. Download the app for Android or iOS, and you can also explore the Orion spacecraft and tour the lunar surface in AR.

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Samsung hopes to 'copy and paste' the brain to 3D chip networks

It wants to borrow the structure of a brain to build a brain-like chip.

Researchers at Harvard and engineers at Samsung believe they can create better artificial intelligences if the chips used to make them mirror the structures of our own brains. The teams are proposing a method to copy the way our neurons are wired on to a 3D neuromorphic chip. Don’t worry if that sounds like a lot because it’s not likely to happen in the real world for a while at the very least. The human brain has more than 100 billion neurons and a thousand times more synapses, so it’s not as if anyone could just build one of these in their garage.

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The biggest news stories you might have missed

Amazon says James Bond movies will still be released in theaters

Nintendo is releasing a six-button Genesis controller for Switch, but only in Japan

Tesla drivers can now request Full Self Driving beta tests

Galaxy S22 Ultra leak suggests Samsung will include the Note's S-Pen slot

August's Smart Lock Pro is $99 for today only 27 Sep 2021, 1:39 pm

With features like WiFi support, Bluetooth, HomeKit and a closed-door sensor, August's 3rd-gen Smart Lock Pro is feature-rich but quite expensive at $230. Fortunately, if you've been coveting that model, you can now pick one up today only for much less — just $99 at Amazon (57 percent off) as its deal of the day. 

Buy August Smart Lock Pro at Amazon - $99

August has several Smart Lock versions, with the basic model lacking features like Apple HomeKit and Z-Wave Plus compatibility, along with several features (WiFi, Alexa and Google Assistant support and remote access) requiring the $80 August Connect WiFi bridge. That's all included with Smart Lock Pro since it comes with the Connect Hub. At 86mm compared to 72mm, it's larger than the basic version and requires four AA batteries, rather than two CR123 cells in the lower-end model. 

Other features include remote/guest access, August app support, auto-lock and unlock, DoorSense to confirm your door is properly closed and arguably a more attractive design. It also fits over your current lock and dispenses with the thumb turn, as you just turn the outside of the lock to open your door. 

If the size and configuration isn't an issue, then the Smart Lock Pro is clearly the one you want, so the $99 price tag makes it essentially a no brainer. At that price, it's cheaper than the basic model that's currently priced at around $130, or $154 with Connect. It's also a lot less than August's latest model, the 4th-generation Smart Lock WiFi (which doesn't require the Connect Hub), currently selling for $230.  

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

Solid-state silicon batteries could last longer and charge faster 27 Sep 2021, 12:11 pm

Researchers from UC San Diego, supported by LG Energy, have made a promising discovery that involves two popular types of battery tech. They created a solid-state battery with an all-silicon anode that could potentially deliver long life, high energy density and fast charging — potentially making EVs cheaper and more practical. 

Silicon is a highly desirable anode material as it has over ten times the energy density of current graphite anodes. The problem is that silicon anodes tend to expand and degrade quickly as a battery charges and discharges, particularly with the liquid electrolytes currently used in lithium-ion cells. That issue has helped keep them out of commercial batteries. 

Meanwhile, the challenge with solid-state batteries (with solid instead of liquid electrolytes) is that they use metallic lithium anodes that must be kept at elevated temperatures (140 degrees F) during charging. That makes them less practical in cold weather, requiring heaters that consume valuable energy.

The solution to both these problems is a special type of silicon anode in a solid-state battery, according to the US San Diego team. They eliminated the carbon and binders typically used in silicon anodes and replaced the liquid electrolyte with a sulfide-based solid electrolyte. 

With those changes, they demonstrated that the all-silicon anodes were much more stable in the solid electrolyte, retaining 80 percent capacity after 500 charge and discharge cycles done at room temperature. It also allowed for faster charging rates than previous silicon anode batteries, the team said. 

The team has already licensed the tech to a company called Unigrid battery, and LG Energy Storage plans to expand the research. The work is particularly promising for grid storage, according to lead author Darren H.S. Tan. However, it's still in the experimental stages and "there is more work to do," the team acknowledged. And of course, a lot of batteries that work great in labs have failed to do so in the real world. The paper was published in the Science journal and also appeared earlier on Arxiv


YouTube TV may drop 14 NBC Universal channels over a contract dispute 27 Sep 2021, 11:06 am

NBC Universal has warned YouTube TV subscribers that 14 of its channels may be removed if the two parties can't resolve a dispute, 9to5Google has reported. YouTube has acknowledged the situation on its official blog, saying that it will drop its monthly price by $10 if the situation isn't resolved and the content goes offline. If you're a YouTube TV subscriber, you stand to lose NBC, USA Network, Golf Channel, Bravo, CNBC, Telemundo and eight other channels

According to YouTube, the dispute revolves around how much money its paying NBC Universal (NBCU) for its content. "For the duration of our agreement, YouTube TV seeks the same rates that services of a similar size get from NBCU so we can continue offering YouTube TV to members at a competitive and fair price," the Google-owned service said. NBC said in a statement that it's seeking "fair rates" from Google, adding that YouTube TV is "just days away from letting their contract expire."

NBC Universal is trying to put some pressure on YouTube TV, asking users to tweet at or chat with YouTube TV, or even switch providers. However, YouTube is saying that it will only renew "if NBCU offers us equitable terms" and said it would drop monthly prices by $10 from $64.99 to $54.99 while the channels are off the platform. It even encouraged users to sign up for NBC's Peacock streaming service for $4.99 per month in order to retain NBCU content. 

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