Amazon Echo Dot (3rd generation) release date, price, news, and features

Update: The official Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Generation) release date details are below, but you may also be interested in our newly minted hands-on review:

  • Tested: Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Generation) hands-on review

You might as well wait for the Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Generation) release date before buying the old entry-level smart speaker from Amazon.com. The new version for 2018 launches next month – specifically October 11 – but you can pre-order it today at the links below.

  • US pre-order: Amazon Echo Dot pre-orders are now open here
  • UK pre-order: Amazon Echo Dot UK pre-orders are now open here
  • AU pre-order: Amazon Echo Dot AU pre-orders are now open here

This is the new version of the cheap Alexa-powered Echo speaker announced by the company today as part of the Amazon 2018 device lineup, and it retails for $49.99 (£49.99 / AU$79) and offering a better design along with new features. 

The circular hockey-puck-shaped speaker has a more refined look with a fabric finish this year (you no longer have to buy that fabric Dot case add-on, basically).

The speaker itself will be more powerful, according to Amazon, and still retains its line out and Bluetooth connectivity for both physical and wireless connections.

Here’s everything we know about the Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Generation.

Don’t worry, it’s not this big

Release date, pre-orders and price

The Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Generation will ship next month, with order going out on October 11 in both the US and UK, according to Amazon. However, you can pre-order this cheap Echo speaker starting today.

It’ll cost the same as the previous Echo Dot speakers: $49.99 for the US, and £49.99 in the UK. We’ll add more regional pricing in other countries as we get it.

  • Want more sound? Amazon Echo Sub release date and price announced

Design and features

The new Amazon Echo Dot 2018 looks a lot like the old Amazon Echo Dot, which is the most popular Amazon speaker, only its hockey-puck-shaped circular body is wrapped in the fine fabric – the same fabric we’ve seen from the latest flagship Echo speaker refreshes.

It’s more aesthetically pleasing for your home than the plastic Echo Dot Gen 1 and Gen 2 versions, and comes in three different colors Charcoal, Heather Grey, and Sandstone.

It retains its form factor, but Amazon says there’s a brand new mic array for better performance. Alexa should be able to hear you better despite this diminutive speaker’s size. There are four far-field microphones to hear you from across the room.

The speaker driver is also much larger, going from a 1.1-inch driver to a 1.6-inch driver. That helps deliver more powerful sound, lower distortion, and a bigger bass. You’ll appreciate the higher max volume out of the Echo Dot 2018.

The new Echo Dot Gen 3 is 70% louder than Gen 2, according to Amazon, and yes, it still retains the physical 3.5mm output for connecting external speaker. You can also connect it wirelessly to external speakers via Bluetooth. This allows you to use your own more powerful speakers without having to buy the more expensive and more powerful Amazon Echo.

Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Generation)

Alexa is built-in in full. You can ask the smart speaker to play music, answer questions, read news, set alarms, and check the weather. It’s also compatible with Alexa-compatible smart home devices, of which there are many in 2018. 

Amazon supports a variety of music streamings platforms through the Echo Dot, including Amazon Music (of course), Spotify, TuneIn and a few others. 

You can call and message anyone with an Echo device or the Alexa app. It has the same drop-in and functionality that debuted in the original Amazon Echo Show. Skype is supposedly coming soon, but we haven’t tested that out yet.

  • Plugs: Amazon Echo Smart Plug release date, price, news and rumors

It’s your last chance get 60% off Bitdefender’s top-rated antivirus software

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And yes, that does include Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2019 – our very favorite antivirus software of 2018. So that’s a year of super secure antivirus for less than $25/£20, that you can use on up to three Windows PCs and laptops – protection for the whole family!

Bitdefender’s Total Security and Internet Security software packages are included in the 60% off offer as well, so you can take your pick. We have an overview and pricing below. But remember…this promotion ends on September 22.

iOS 12: new features and the iOS 12.1 release date

We’ve discovered new iOS 12 features and have been clued in on the fact that the iOS 12.1 beta update points to additional Apple hardware on the horizon.

Every iOS 12 feature is explained below, including highlights: Memoji, Group Notification, Screen Time and, importantly, better performance for older iPhones.

All of these change your iPhone and iPad – for the better. You don’t need the pricey iPhone XS or XS Max to get iOS 12. In fact, it’ll make your old iPhone and iPad feel like new. 

How can you get iOS 12? We have a how to download iOS 12 guide for you. You should take us up on that. We tested iOS 12 for several weeks and it’s instantly better than the problematic iOS 11 update.

Good news: we can already tell you that Grouped Notifications makes the UI easier to navigate, and Siri Shortcuts are bound to save you time. Bad news: Group FaceTime was delayed. Expect it in iOS 12.1, maybe sometime in October along with the iPhone XR release date of October 26.

Apple is making its mobile operating system reliable and competitive with Google’s Android Pie and the Google Pixel 3 that’s coming October 9. That much is obvious.

Here’s what we know about iOS 12, whether you’re loading it onto your older iPhone or Apple’s new iPhone XS Max.

What’s the difference between the latest phones showcasing iOS? Watch our handy explainer to find out:

iOS 12.1 release date speculated

Apple launched iOS 12.1 beta for developers the day after the iOS 12 update came out. We’re expecting a few tweaks for the forthcoming software upgrade.

First, Group FaceTime for up to 32 users needs to launch. Even more interesting, the iOS 12.1 code references ‘iPad2018fall’. We’re likely to see the iPad Pro 2018 launch in October.

New iPad Pro rumors point to a bezel-reduced iPad, one with a TrueDepth camera for Face ID and Memoji. There are plenty of hints that Animoji and Memoji are going to be supersized on Apple’s tablet soon. 

The top iOS 12 features

1. iOS 12 makes your old iPhone and iPad faster

  • Older iPhones are 40% to 70% faster at certain tasks
  • Apple’s looking to put the problematic iOS 11 behind it

iOS 12 focuses on reliability and performance with this update, and it supports all of the same iPhones and iPads that iOS 11 worked with.

Apple calls out the iPhone 6 Plus, specifically, saying iOS 12 makes this phone 40% faster at launching apps, 70% faster at launching the camera app, and 50% faster at displaying the keyboard. Keyboard typing and other routine features on older iPhones can slow down with every new iOS update, and Apple is looking to change these pain points with iOS 12.

This makes your existing iPhone and iPad more reliable, and your older devices can be used by family members or be sold now that they’ll be more function with iOS 12. They don’t have to sit in a drawer because they’re too slow.

2. Grouped notifications

  • Grouped notification on iOS 12 clean up individual notifications mess
  • Smartly grouped by app, topic, thread. Tap in to look to unbind them
  • Can clear a whole group of notifications with a single swipe

Grouped notifications are a part of iOS 12. This is a small, but important tweak (maybe the most important iOS 12 update) announced at the Apple WWDC keynote. 

It binds together notifications by message threads and topics, making it easier to see everything at a glance. Right now, individual notifications in the morning are a big pain to check as they pile up.

3. Memoji and changes to Animoji

  • Tongue and wink detection for iOS 12 Animoji
  • Four new Animoji masks: Ghost, Koala, Tiger and T-Rex
  • Personalized ‘Memoji’ to look like you or ‘the real you’
  • Animoji and Memoji clips last 30 seconds (up to 10 seconds)

Animoji is expanded, not just with new masks, but with tongue detection (as seen on stage) and wink detection (not announced, but confirmed for iOS 12 afterward). Ghost Koala, Tiger and T-Rex will be joining the cast of Animoji masks.

Memoji is a thing, too. It’s a customizable mask that can look like you – or the real you, according to Apple. It still resides in Messages. You can select hairstyles, eye color and accessories like earrings and sunglasses. Like Animoji, this is an iPhone X only feature due to requiring Apple’s TrueDepth front-facing camera.

4. Siri Shortcuts can find your lost keys, more

  • Siri Shortcuts allows you to assign phrases to tasks
  • ‘I lost my keys’ can ring your Tile tracker to find keys
  • ‘Heading home’ sends ETA notification to roommate, sets thermostat and fan, and brings up the fastest route via Apple Maps
  • Gallery and library full of pre-configured Siri Shortcuts

Siri is smarter. If you set up Siri Shortcuts, a brand new app, It‘ll know that “I lost my keys” means to ring your Tile tracker. 

Sure, Tile is a handy gadget, but getting to the slow app is a pain when you’ve lost your keys. An integrated Siri is a game-changer for both Tile and our peace of mind.

Siri Shortcuts go far beyond this example. Apple allows for all sorts of formulas. The app can suggests coffee orders from the place you always order from, and nudge you to message contacts to tell them you’re running late. 

There’s also Kayak-based flight information you can call up via voice. By pressing the add to Siri button, you can then say “Travel plans” and Siri will read back information such as your hotel address.

Apple’s IFTTT-like Siri Shortcuts app launched alongside the final iOS 12 software. However, not all shortcuts will be found in the new app. Some companies, like the aforementioned Tile, will host shortcuts within their own app, so look out for that.

5. Group FaceTime (now launching later)

  • Group FaceTime for up to 32 people with dynamic UI
  • Can use Animoji and Memoji in FaceTime
  • Won’t launch with the final software on day one

Group FaceTime is coming to iOS 12 with up to 32 participants, and you go directly from a group chat to a group FaceTime in the Messages app.

Update: Apple has delayed the launch of iOS 12 Group Notifications, according to release notes indicating that it’ll come out this ‘fall’. To us, that sounds like an iOS 12.1 launch – like Apple Pay, Apple Cash, AirPlay 2 and other features didn’t make it live on day one in previous operating system updates.

People can drop in and drop out at any time. The interface is filled with tiles that can expand, and ‘the roster’ along the bottom for everyone else in the Group FaceTime chat. When people start to speak, their window gets bigger, even if they’re in the bottom roster of participants. It works on iPhone, iPad and Mac, and you can even answer on the Apple Watch and HomePod with just audio.

Animoji is coming to FaceTime and Group FaceTime. You’ll of course need to update to iOS 12 and an iPhone X, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max or an iPhone XR to make that magic happen.

That’s a wrap for new iOS 12 features. 

The two biggest highlights were Grouped notifications and Group FaceTime with Memoji. Of course, Group FaceTime is not due to launch just yet, which means an inevitable iOS 12.1 and more updates for us to write about.

6. Screen time – using your iPhone less

  • Do Not Disturb during bedtime to hide visual display of notifications
  • Instant tuning to send future notifications silently or turn them off
  • Reports give a weekly activity summary on how you use iOS 12
  • Breakdown: ranks app usage, highest phone pick up times (and what app draws you in first), and apps that send you the most notifications
  • Set self-imposed time limits via reminders and temporary app blocking
  • Limit kids time in apps by category or individual apps via Family Sharing

Apple has expanding its Do Not Disturb capabilities with a cleaner ‘Do Not Disturb During Bedtime’ mode. It’ll silence not just the notification delivery sounds, but also the visual notifications clutter that can distract you when you’re trying to sleep. 

The lockscreen remains clear until you unlock your iPhone in the morning. You can allow certain apps to break through, just like with DND mode right now. Apple refers to these as critical alerts, and they’re opt-in.

Do Not Disturb options aren’t one-size-fits all, either. It can now automatically end in an hour, at the end of the day, when you leave a certain location, or at the end of a meeting in your calendar. iOS 12 even makes the DND moon icon in Control Center have 3D Touch support to act as a shortcut to all of these options.

Instant Tuning is an iOS 12 feature you’ll love if you’ve ever gotten a notification from an app you always seem to dismiss (HQ trivia, breaking news alerts, etc), but don’t have time to turn off future notifications in the many submenus of Settings. Apple is allowing you to control individual app notification profiles right from the lockscreen, without making you leave what you’re doing.

Deliver Quietly is an option within Instant Tuning, and it’ll allow you to choose to have notifications delivered silently Notification Center by default so you’re not interrupted by alerts on the lockscreen. It’s a nice in between option.

Siri helps clean up your messy lockscreen with notification delivery suggestions based on how you interact with notifications. Siri will understand which notifications it should deliver prominently and which ones to send to Notification Center. It’s like IOS 12’s version of ‘clean up your desktop’ system nudges.

Screen time is Apple’s take on limiting your iPhone use – how much time you’re spending on apps, which apps you use the most, and which apps are sending you the most notifications. 

To give you a little extra help, Apple has created app limits. You can set your own limit, with a notification letting you know when time is almost up. A ‘Time is up’ message will display when you’ve reached your self-imposed-Siri-assisted limit.

Parents can create limits for kids with Allowances, time-of-day-based downtime controls, and category controls. Education and essential message apps can also be green lit thanks to an always-allowed settings. 

The best part? Setting limits for your kids uses Family Sharing, so you can manage it all remotely from your parental device – no need to get hold of your 12-year-old kid’s phone to execute on these new iOS 12 controls.

7. New ‘Measure’ app and USDZ file format

  • New USDZ file type dedicated at augmented reality
  • Measure app replaces your old-fashioned measuring tape

‘Measure’ is getting its own AR app. It uses the iPhone’s and iPad’s sensors to measure objects in front of you, including suitcases, as shown in the first iOS 12 demo. All it takes it just tap-and-drag along the edges of the object on the screen. 

It also automatically detects the approximate dimensions of a photo – we’ve used it to buy a photo frame when we couldn’t find the old-fashioned tape measure. iOS 12 to the rescue.

For AR developers, Apple has created a new file type called ‘USDZ.’ The company worked on USDZ with Pixar, and Adobe is supporting it, too. The file format can be shared across FIles, Mail, Messages and Safari. This is an important step forward for developers working on AR apps.

8. Apple News, Stocks, Voice Memos and CarPlay

  • Apple News: new Browse tab and sidebar navigation
  • Stocks: robust chart design and stock news integration
  • Voice memos: easier menus, iCloud support, on iPad (finally)
  • CarPlay: third-party app support, like Google News and Waze

Apps are indeed getting updates with iOS 12, starting with Apple News. There’s a new Browse tab and a sidebar for better navigation. Stocks is finally being rebuilt with a helpful news design, complete with charts and Apple news headline integrated into into stocks. The top stories will be business news curated by Apple News editors.

Voice Memos has come to iPad (as well as macOS), and it’ll get iCloud support, long overdue changes. Now you won’t have to AirDrop conversations between devices in order to listen back. It’ll also be easier to assign names to voice clips thanks to an overhauled Voice Memos redesign.

Apple Books is the new name for iBooks, allowing you to pick up reading where you left off and a new store interface to browse buy ebooks and audio books.

CarPlay now support third-party applications, with Waze and Google Maps appearing on-screen. Apple didn’t call out the Google-owned apps by name, but they were there on the screen. This was a major highlight of iOS 12.

9. Some NFC features work even with a dead battery

Apple delivers a clever trick with NFC, allowing you to use a metro pass or student ID in the Wallet app, even if your iPhone has a depleted battery.

Express Cards with power reserve ensures you’re not stranded outside of a train station or a dorm room because there’s still some low-level power in your phone. This is one of our biggest fears for users who routinely rly on NFC. 

Apple solves this, and though there’s not enough power to give you visual feedback, when you touch your dead iPhone to an NFC-equipped terminal and you’ll get a haptic response. And like magic, it works.

Just don’t expect this new feature to work with Apple Pay. That requires Face ID, so you’re going to have to possess a powered-on smartphone for that to work. 

10. iOS 12 is 200% less annoying on iPhone X

Here are two irksome features we hated about iOS 11 on the iPhone X that iOS 12 fixes.

First, closing open app windows in iOS 12 is easier. All you have to do is slide up on an open app to dismiss it from the multitasking menu. iOS 11 had us press down on the app until a bunch of red close icons appeared over top of each app, and then to tap those little red icons to dismiss the app. That was unpleasant.

Second, whenever we picked up our phone, we’d always press the volume up and power button accidentally, which is the new ‘take a screenshot’ button combination on iPhone X. Apple has disabled this action whenever the phone screen is off. Our iOS 12 Photos app is no longer going to be filled with errant screenshots on the daily.

11. ARKit 2 and multiplayer gaming

  • ARKit 2 allows for ‘shared experiences’ for AR multiplayer
  • Lego, Fender, Adobe and Pixar are all working on AR with Apple

iOS 12 cements Apple as a leader in augmented reality (AR) with the arrival of groundbreaking multiplayer capabilities it calls Shared Experiences in ARKit 2.

These multi-user virtual environments allow for multiplayer gaming and experiences through iPhones and iPads. iOS 12 creates a more collaborative (and competitive) way of experiencing AR. 

Lego demoed a four-player game at WWDC in June, pledging that it was in when it came to Apple’s “creative play possibilities.” Players were involved in building up an AR town. It was like The Sims was reimagined for the future.

ARKit 2 opens up AR to hundreds of millions of users, according to Apple, and that makes iOS 12 the broadest AR platform in the world. We got a taste of AR last year, but multi-user virtual environments bring more advanced tools and gameplay.

12. Camera app changes

Smart DHR is reserved for the A12 chip-equipped iPhone XS and iPhone XR phones, but iOS 12 also tweaks the default camera app on older devices with new tricks.

First, the Portrait Lighting mode (on newer iPhones with dual-lens cameras) looks more natural. The software will be able to define crisper edges by more effectively separating a person from a background scene. Apple is also allowing third-party apps to use the software to separate the foreground and background.

Second, it’s the end of an era for our how to scan a QR code from your iPhone and iPad guide. The default camera in iOS 12 makes QR code reading automatic.

Third, while not part of the camera app, RAW photos can be imported and managed on an iPhone and iPad, with the bonus ability of editing RAW photos on an iPad Pro.

13. Photos app is now smarter with iOS 12

  • Betters search and a new ‘For you’ tab
  • Suggestions on who to share photo collections with
  • Share back suggestions nudge friends to send their photos

The Photos app expands its search capabilities in an effort to compete with Google Photos. It recognizes photos by event now and indexes them accordingly. Apple says it takes into account over four million events, citing the Aspen Ideas Festival as a very niche example. 

This lets you search by event without any thankless manual tagging. Searching by event joins other smart suggestions, including filtering by people, places, and relative dates (searching via Siri works with all of these and is quite handy in our experience). 

The iOS 12 Photos search capabilities have also been broadened to let you use multiple search terms at once. Seeking “dog, animal” should weed out all of your gourmet hotdog results (this is a real problem we just tested at TechRadar).

A new tab ‘For you’ is a part of the iOS 12 Photos app, and it’s filled with personalized suggestions on how to improve and share your pictures. Sharing has gotten smarter, letting you share at full-resolution and suggesting who to share these photos with.

Share back suggestions is a neat feature that lets you send photos to a friend, and it uses machine learning to poke them to send photos they took to you. Bonus: iOS 12’s photo sharing features uses iMessage’s end-to-end encryption.

14. iPad switches to iPhone-like gestures

It’s confusing owning both an iPad and a new iPhone X right now because returning to the home screen and opening Control Center are executed by different gestures.

The iPad takes cues from the iPhone X with the iOS 12 update: swipe up from the bottom to return home and check Control Center by pulling down from the top right-hand corner.

This may be a prelude to the iPad Pro 2018 that’s rumored to include Apple’s TrueDepth camera for Face ID, Animoji, and Memoji.

15. Siri translates new languages, learns motorsport scores

  • Siri can now translate over 40 language pairs
  • Motorsports scores, schedules and stats knowledge
  • Food and celebrity facts knowledge expanded upon
  • Password search not part of Siri’s duties in iOS 12

Try asking Siri to translate something into Spanish. It works, and with iOS 12 it’ll be even more robust with over 40 language pairs to aid your international travels.

So far, Siri will translate English (US) into Brazilian Portuguese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Russian and Spanish. We really hope Siri will be able to translate foreign words into English. That may have to wait for iOS 13.

Siri will also learn the language of motorsports, per se. Asking for Formula One and NASCAR information will have Siri recite live standings, schedule, roster and stat info.

Food knowledge and celebrity facts are also part the Siri update. Right now, asking “How healthy is fish” gives a smatter of search results and requires opening up Siri. In the future, a specific answers about food will come from the USDA database, citing calories, vitamins, and how healthy the food is overall.

Password hunting is now within Siri’s grasp, letting you search any saved passwords, according to Apple. This applies to both apps and websites.

16. Pinpoints 911 calls in the US

You won’t have to worry about reciting your exact location when calling 911 in the US thanks to iOS 12. It’ll pinpoint your whereabouts during emergency calls.

Apple says it’ll “automatically and securely” share your iPhone location with first responders, but only with them and only during such emergencies. It’s an effort to reduce response time, yet maintain your privacy.

17. iOS 12 compatibility

  • Compatible with iPhone 5S, iPad mini 2 and iPad Air and newer
  • 11 iPhones, 10 iPads, 1 iPod touch – the broadest iOS update yet 

iOS 12 will run on all devices that have its 64-bit chipset. It’ll work on the iPhone 5S and newer, while the iPad Air and iPad mini 2 are the oldest iPads that are compatible with iOS 12. 

That’s means this update is supporting 11 different iPhones, 10 different iPads, and the sole iPod touch 6th generation, still clinging to life. It’s the broadest support for a software update Apple has ever offered, and this is one of the biggest advantages Apple has over Android phones.

When did iOS 12 launch?

  • June 4 – Developer beta launched (to paid Apple Developers)
  • June 25 – iOS 12 public beta launched (it’s free)
  • September 17 – the final iOS 12 software (still free)

iOS 12 released on Monday, September 17 following the iPhone XS launch event, where Apple announced the official launch date. You can now download it.

There were actually three phases to the iOS 12 launch: one for developers, one for public beta testers, and one final version launching today.

First, the developer beta launched at WWDC and got more frequent refreshes, but it was early software. You have to be a registered Apple developer, which costs $99 for the annual membership. It’s for people who like to tinker with Xcode and make apps.

Second, iOS 12 public beta launched on June 25 and was completely free. It was less problematic than the developer beta. The downside? It was always one step behind what the developers have access to.

Third, the final software, meant for everyone, launched on September 17. There’s no need to jump through hoops to enroll in a beta. iOS 12 is now here in its final form, right in time for the iPhone XS release date.

Previous reporting…

Apple’s iOS 12 update for your existing iPhone and iPad will be announced today at 10am PT at the company’s WWDC 2018 keynote. We’re here reporting on it live.

You’ll be able to test it early, too, as there will likely be three iOS 12 release dates: one for developers, one for beta testers, and one final version for everyone else.

None of this should surprise you by now. Apple launches its software updates at the same time every year. It’ll run through all the iOS 12 changes in about 24 minutes, according to past Apple keynote history.

What should surprise you are the features. iOS 12 has become a big mystery, with Apple reportedly pulling back front-facing features in order to fix iOS 11 problems.

Don’t worry, you can still anticipate at least some groundbreaking ideas and design adjustments due to the launch of iPhone X last year and theoretical iPhone X2 and iPhone 9 release date later in 2018.

Apple has a chance to make meaningful changes as it adapts to all-screen displays. Here’s our list of what we expect from iOS 12, according to rumors and leaks.

Cut to the chase

  • What is iOS 12? Apple’s next big iPhone and iPad software update 
  • When is the iOS 12 release date? Announcement next week, June 4 with a subsequent beta,  September launch 
  • How much will iOS 12 cost? Nothing. iOS 12 will remain free.

iOS 12 release date and beta schedule

iOS 12 to fix what was wrong with iOS 11

“iOS 12 just works,” may be Apple’s big message about its next iPhone update, as it’s reportedly focusing on reliability and shelving many exciting features.

It’s okay to be torn about this news if you were looking forward to iOS 12 with a fresh face. Then again, it’s hard to argue with experiencing fewer bug-filled random resets on your iPhone.

Apple’s iOS 12 plans are going to be a godsend if you’ve been experiencing issues with iOS 11 – even the iOS 11.4 update has new, ongoing problems. It’s been bad PR for Apple.

Which features won’t be in iOS 12?

Apple was reportedly planned, but delayed:

  • A home screen redesign
  • Refreshed camera app
  • Updated Mail app
  • Refined Photos app

Those may have to wait until iOS 13, if you are to believe the rumors about the Apple teams new mission. It’s all in an effort to make iOS 12 stabilization impeccable.

iOS 12 and macOS cross-platform apps

Apple is thought to be bringing first and third-party iOS apps to your Mac, making one of the biggest iOS 12 features for your computer instead of your phone.

It’s a long-overdue upgrade. We’ve always asked: Why can’t you control your smart home with the Home app via that all-powerful iMac Pro? You can’t do it today. It’s a ridiculous notion.

Apple is rumored to be allowing developers to expand their app ecosystem to the forthcoming macOS 10.14 update. Apple’s own apps, like Home, are also said to be finally making the jump, according to recent reports.

Don’t get too excited. This feature may also be saved for iOS 13 and macOS 11.5 in 2019, says a new report. It’s supposedly being worked on, but how quickly it comes to the table may leaving you waiting for a while.

We’re giving this one a good shot at being at WWDC on our speculation scale – we’re at least expecting Apple to lay the groundwork for such a feature in 2018.

More Animoji (in more places)

Animoji – whether you demanded it or vehemently opposed it, Apple is due to bring more Animoji to iOS 12 for use with the iPhone X Face ID camera. iOS 11.3 just gave us four new Animoji faces to play with, but why stop there?

The navigation of these animated character masks should get easier, too, according to Bloomberg. That’s important, because to get better use, they need to break out of their Apple Messages confines, where Animoji are currently buried.

Apple’s Animoji character may make two jumps in 2018. First, the natural jump to FaceTime for video chats behind a virtual panda, robot, and poop mask. 

Second to what may be a new iPad Pro 2018 with a TrueDepth camera for Face ID and Animoji. We’ve seen evidence of an updated iPad recently, beyond the cheap new iPad 2018. But we don’t foresee new iPad Pros until later this year.

Way better autocorrect

Maybe we could have lumped this iOS 12 change under fixes, but it deserves its own mention. Everyone wants better autocorrect from the built-in iOS keyboard.

Currently, it can be downright terrible. Why? It may be due to Apple’s commendable stance on privacy, with all of the smarts happening on the device itself or masked so that individuals aren’t identifiable.

Apple says it’s not mining your data like you may find on some Android phones. But we also want a smarter keyboard that doesn’t autocap and autocorrect randomly. 

iOS 12 is Apple’s perfect opportunity to balance differential privacy with our typings needs. With the focus on reliability this should be near the very top of the list.

Flexible Face ID

Face ID isn’t better than Touch ID. There. We said it. It’s a neat party trick and makes the iPhone X feel like it’s from the future, but we’re typing our passcode multiple times a day whenever Face ID fails. That’s unacceptable. 

iOS 12 will fix Face ID so that it works when your device in landscape orientation, rather than only in portrait, according to Macotakara’s supply chain source. This change should go a long way to fixing our biggest Face ID problems.

We’d also like to see a “try again” button when Face ID fails the first time. Having to put the iPhone X to sleep and wake it up again just to re-engage Face ID is annoying and design nonsense. Apps that use Face ID for passwords, like our banking app, have this “try again” feature. Expect to see this in iOS 12.

The better Face ID is with the iOS 12 update, the sooner we’ll forget that we miss the Touch ID fingerprint sensor that’s likely to have had its last hurrah in the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus.

More iOS 12 features we want to see

While nothing is known for sure about iOS 12 yet we have a clear idea of some of the things we want to see, such as the following.

System-wide password manager

We’d also like to see a system-wide password manager built into iOS 12, not just username and password saving in Safari. That’s not helpful if you apps on iOS.

With Face Unlock and Touch ID securing our phones, there’s little fear in relying on a password manager on mobile devices. And remembering passwords to so many different apps seems like a wasteful second layer of security.

Always-on display hints?

Look out for tiny always-on display hints in iOS 12, as Apple could easily squeeze this useful feature into the iPhone X2 OLED screen in September. The software may have hidden hooks for an always-on screen in the iOS 12 beta code. 

OLED essentially ‘turns off’ black parts of the screen in an effort not display the bare minimum without eating up battery life. Phones like the Samsung Galaxy S9, the Google Pixel 2 and even the rumored LG G7 have shown off this idea to great effect.

Apple does have a raise-to-wake feature that’s been a big hit among new iPhones. But a true always-on display would help differentiate the iPhone X2 OLED from the rumored iPhone 9 LCD.

New iOS 12 wallpaper

Every new version of iOS seems to get new wallpaper, and we expect iOS 12 to be no different in 2018. It should allow Apple to further exhibit its iPhone X OLED screen.

Specifically, we could see more dynamic wallpapers from Apple. iOS 12 needs more moving backgrounds besides a bunch of moving bubbles in various colors. 

New iOS 12 concept videos show the iconic Earth wallpaper spinning, for example. Right now, that’s a flat image, and that doesn’t put OLEDs to full use at all.

Grouped notifications

iOS 12 may finally bring a fix to having so many notifications in chronological order. Every morning, our iPhone is littered with so many ungrouped alerts.

Grouping notifications together would make life easier, as long as it’s not differently than what we had in iOS 9 with lots of spacing between important alerts. Android Oreo does this nicely, and iOS 12 could easily lift this feature.

We’ve seen iOS 12 concepts include grouped notifications and also small notification icons on the lockscreen for things like weather and activity ring progress. That would take up less space and provide data at a glance right under the time and date.

Group FaceTime

Speaking of grouped things, we’re keen on opening up the FaceTime party to more than just 1:1 chats. iOS 12 should welcome group FaceTime to iPhones and iPads.

We’ve had 1:1 video chats long enough 

Conference call software, from Hangouts to Skype, can already do this, so it’s natural to expect Apple to open up FaceTime to groups eventually. iOS 12 may be it. 

Sound familiar? This was supposed to already be a feature in the current version of iOS, but it didn’t actually happen last year. Either that rumor was wrong or was shelved until iOS 12. We’ll find out more in June.

Camera controls in the camera app

File this under: Why is this still a problem? Apple’s camera app is very barebones compared to its competitions, to the point that you can’t change video resolutions within the camera app. It has to be done through Settings > Photo & Camera > Record Video. All of this requires exiting the camera app. That’s very unhelpful.

We’d also like to see other settings become easier to use. Android phones do a good job at letting you switch between the rear- and front-facing camera with a swipe up or down on the screen, and the white Timer numbers (3s, 10s) can be hard to see in landscape mode when you’re focusing on a subject that’s white.

While some app redesigned have been shelved for iOS 13, we’re hoping these small tweaks make it into the iOS 12 beta this month.

  • Having iOS 11 problems? Here’s how to fix them

Huawei Mate 20 may double as a wireless charger for AirPod-style headphones

Huawei’s AirPods-imitating Freebuds earbuds may launch alongside the company’s next flagship smartphone and perform a neat wireless charging trick to boot.

The ‘Freebuds 2 Pro’ can be put in their pillbox case and placed on a wireless charging pad to recharge, according to a new leak. Or users can put the case can on the back of the upcoming Huawei Mate 20 or Mate 20 Pro to refill the headphones’ batteries.

The Freebuds 2 Pro can also be charged via USB-C cable, which takes two hours, notes press material acquired by WinFuture. Charging wirelessly takes three hours, though that’s a lot of time and battery drained if you’re using a smartphone to power up your earbuds.

Wireless charging the ‘Freebuds 2 Pro’ (Photo Credit: WinFuture)

The Freebuds 2 Pro (it’s unclear if there will be a basic Freebuds 2 model, or if “Pro” is the new standard) connect to the smartphone over Bluetooth 5.0. The headphones support Hi-Res Audio Protocol for bitrates up to 560 Kbps and manage three hours of battery life, though the case should provide up to 20 hours of charge alone. 

The report also alleges that the Freebuds 2 Pro can be used to control Google Assistant, which the Huawei Mate 20 Pro will supposedly support, too. The headphones come with noise reduction and use AI tech to distinguish between the user’s voice and everyone else’s.

Given that the Freebuds have been packaged with Huawei phones before, like with the Huawei P20 Pro, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Freebuds 2 Pro introduced alongside the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro, which will be formally unveiled on October 16.

Why you may need a new iPhone XS case after all

The just-revealed iPhone XS might look just like last year’s iPhone X, but it turns out they’re not exactly the same. The new smartphone’s camera housing is ever-so-slightly bigger, which means it might not fit if placed in a case made snugly for the iPhone X dimensions.

The longer side of the camera housing on the iPhone X is 24.13mm, while the new iPhone XS was enlarged to 25.50mm (the shorter “width” was only enlarged by .01mm), Macotakara found. This is supposedly because Apple slightly enlarged the wide-angle camera sensor in the dual-camera suite.

That’s barely enough to see with the naked eye, but some iPhone X cases made for the older smartphone are form-fitting, so anyone buying Apple’s latest phone should go with a case properly sized for it. You can try forcing it, of course, or manually widening the cutout.

More reasons for new cases

Apple only lists the iPhone XS as compatible with the new first-party cases built for its latest smartphone, and is even discontinuing iPhone X cases this week, according to 9to5Mac

But Apple may have a good reason to discourage some of the older cases, like the fold-over folio, from being used with the new smartphones: The company may have switched around the locations of the Hall Effect sensors, Macotakara theorized. 

Magnets in the folio cases interacted with these sensors to wake the iPhone X screen when the cover was flipped open (and put it to sleep when closed). So if these hidden magnets were shifted around in the iPhone XS, the old cases won’t preserve this handy functionality.

Nintendo Switch Online: free trial, cloud saves, NES games, and online multiplayer

Update: Nintendo Switch Online is live and ready to rumble, after a new 6.0 system update to implement the service across Switch consoles – as well as allowing users to post multiple screenshots at once across connected social media apps. 

You can muse over the pros and cons at our Nintendo Switch Online buying guide, or run through everything you could feasibly want to know about the service in our article below…

Nintendo Switch Online has arrived. A full year and a half after the Nintendo Switch first launched, the hugely successful console finally has a fleshed-out online service – packed with free retro games, online multiplayer, cloud saves, and a host of other perks.

We finally have confirmation of the 20 NES games bundled in with your subscription, along with details of a week-long free trial – meaning you can test out Nintendo Switch Online’s full service before you buy. 

  • Best Nintendo Switch games 2018: all the best games at home and on the go

This is Nintendo’s first paid online service, though the basic £3.49 / $3.99 per month subscription is a far amount below Xbox Live or Playstation Plus.

Super Mario Odyssey

The hybrid Nintendo console functions as both a home gaming device and portable handheld, and has blown all sales forecasts out of the water. 

It sold over 10 million units in its first year alone, helped by a strong first-party line-up – two of the most lauded Zelda and Mario games ever made, to start – a number of high-profile AAA ports, and a flourishing ecosystem of indie games.

That release schedule has slowed somewhat, and Nintendo will be looking to its incoming online service to keep up momentum on the widely successful console. But what exactly will Nintendo Switch Online give players that they don’t have already?

What is Nintendo Switch Online?

Nintendo Switch Online is the – you guessed it – online service for Nintendo Switch owners. Much like Xbox Live or Playstation Plus, signing up to the service affords you a host of additional content, offers, and access to online multiplayer play. There’s also a tie-in smartphone app that provides players with in-game battle stats, voice chat functionality, and additional information on select titles.

The latest system 6.0 firmware update gave all Switch consoles access to the service, alongside the ability to post multiple screenshots at once to connected social media apps. 

Nintendo Switch Online

The update also allows users to re-download games they’ve already purchases on another Switch system – though you have to stay online to play them – in what may turn out to be a flexible way to access your games without endless game-sharing depriving Nintendo of funds.

Anyone with a Nintendo console will already have a Nintendo Account, which functions as your personal profile for downloading updates or buying games through the eShop.

This is, however, the first time Nintendo’s online service has required a paid subscription to use, so wary players will be looking to see if it matches up with equivalent offerings on competing consoles.

Officially, users must be 13 years old or over to sign up for Nintendo Switch Online.

When does Nintendo Switch Online launch?

After waiting 18 months for a full online service, we now know Nintendo Switch Online will be launching proper on September 18 in the US, though it’ll be the early hours of the 19th in Europe and late morning in Nintendo’s home nation of Japan. 

While the general release window was leaked through an Amazon listing back in July, Nintendo has since given us the exact date. A planned Nintendo Direct livestream was expected to offer more details about the service, along with a firm launch date, but was delayed to September 13 due to a destructive earthquake that hit Hokkaido, Japan earlier in the month.

Why should I sign up to Nintendo Switch Online?

Nintendo Switch Online will finally give you the online capability to play, compete, and cooperate with players around the world.

Online team-based shooters like Splatoon have proved hugely popular on the Switch, though committed players still have to make do with a fiddly workaround for enabling voice chat through the console – and which only lets you speak with your friends.

Splatoon

With the latest in Nintendo’s iconic brawler series, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, also arriving in November, it’s hoped that the fleshed-out service will prove a capable platform for competitive play – and pave the way for Nintendo’s hesitant foray into eSports.

Sadly there are still no dedicated servers, so players will have to make do with less reliable P2P (peer to peer) hosting for online matches.

Thankfully, we’ve had confirmation that the likes of Fortnite, Paladins, Warframe, and other free-to-play games won’t require a paid subscription to the service.

What classic games do I get with Nintendo Switch Online?

If the warm fuzzy feeling of supporting your favorite video game publisher wasn’t enough, your extra pennies each month will also net you access to a library of classic and retro games.

This isn’t the Virtual Console from the Wii and Wii U, though. Instead of a marketplace for one-off purchases of classic games, Nintendo Switch Online members will be able to play select titles bundled into their subscription.

At launch you’ll get 20 NES games, with the full list now announced and listed in the box, right. There will reportedly be additional online features for cooperative and competitive play, though we envisage the exact specifications will vary between each game. 

These will be followed by three additional titles each month – with the original NES Metroid coming in November, and the likes of Wario’s Woods and Ninja Gaiden coming the month after. There’s a full list at Nintendo’s NES web page.

Donkey Kong

Does Nintendo Switch Online have cloud saves?

One sore point for users has been the omission of cloud saves for their games, meaning that a busted Switch console will take all your hard-earned progress with it. To prevent you having to start Breath Of The Wild all over again – again – the paid service will back all of your save files onto Nintendo’s own servers for safety.

This is in keeping with the save data on Playstation Plus, though any Xbox Live user can access cloud saving for free. But it looks like not every game will support cloud saves, either – including big names like Splatoon 2, FIFA 19, and the upcoming Pokemon Let’s Go games. 

While Nintendo Switch Online’s cloud saving will be enabled by default for most titles, developers can choose to opt out to prevent online cheating – since reloading an old save file could restore items someone had traded to another player, or reset their online ranking.

What will Nintendo Switch Online cost?

While the lack of online features at launch didn’t do Nintendo any favours, it helped that players were given access to a limited version of the service for free. Why this was harder than on any other console isn’t clear, but Nintendo is clearly shaking things up a bit for the Switch.

This all changes when the paid service launches, requiring you to subscribe for a monthly fee – though you’ll be able to sign up for a free seven-day trial, just to try it.

Individual users will be able to sign up for £3.49 / $3.99 per month, with reduced rates for longer membership options (see box, right). There’s also a separate ‘Family’ option that includes allows up to 8 Nintendo Accounts to use the same subscription, for £31.49 / $34.99.

Players will also be able to buy a subscription with My Nintendo Gold Points – a rewards service that gives you spending tokens when you buy games on the Switch eShop, and came into effect earlier this year.

By comparison, an Xbox Live membership costs users £14.99 / $24.99 for a three-month subscription, while Playstation Plus will put you back £19.99 / $24.99.

On price alone Nintendo Switch Online is the winner, though we’ll be waiting until September to see how well it compares to competing services.

  • The best Nintendo Switch bundles and deals out there

OnePlus TV: what we want to see

You’ll likely know OnePlus as the fast-growing smartphone brand from China, which found a huge following for making high-spec handsets that still manage to sharply undercut the increasingly astronomical price of the competition (we’re looking at you, iPhone XS Max).

OnePlus is now looking to repeat the trick with a new smart TV, out sometime next year. But what exactly is the OnePlus TV, and what will it do differently from the competition?

  • Our guide to the best smart TV platforms

Details are scant so far – aside from OnePlus’ announcement stating that it’s certainly happening – but we’ll run you through all our predictions below and update as more information becomes available.

OnePlus 6

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? The first smart TV from smartphone-maker OnePlus
  • When is it out? Sometime in 2019
  • What will it cost? Knowing OnePlus, it’ll be mid-range pricing, but won’t undersell itself either

OnePlus TV release date

OnePlus CEO Pete Lau announced the set in a blog post on the official OnePlus forum – rather than a flashy launch event – in keeping with the brand’s customer-focused outlook.

There was a follow up post a few days later, inviting forum members to suggest potential names for the upcoming OnePlus TV. So if you want the chance to name a TV – and why wouldn’t you – the ‘You Name It’ contest is now live on the OnePlus website.

So given that a name hasn’t been decided, and that we’ve only caught wind of it late in the year, it’s likely we won’t see the set come to market before mid-to-late 2019.

Smart TV

OnePlus TV price

There’s no prices yet for the OnePlus TV – or whatever they’ll call it – but their strategy in the smartphone market has been to offer upper-mid-range products that undercut the competition by about 20-30%.

The end price could be in the range of $600 / £500 to $1,000 / £800, depending on who OnePlus decide to lock horns with, but we’d be surprised for it to fall out of those margins. It’s probably a safe bet to say it won’t be cheaper than the OnePlus 6 handset ($529 / £469), but it’s difficult to predict with so little information to go on.

OnePlus TV: what we want to see

A mid-sized television set

Remember when 40″ screens seemed excessive? Today’s televisions market is moving towards ever-larger 55″ and 65″ displays, even as the average home gets smaller.

If OnePlus could offer a well-made 40″ television that didn’t skimp on resolution or smart features – so a modern set that consumers could actually fit in their living rooms – we could see it making a big splash.

4K TV

4K display

4K is the buzzword of the moment, and failing to match that resolution would make the OnePlus TV a hard sell. Our guess is OnePlus is angling for a mid-quality 4K television – one that doesn’t try to compete with the big-screen OLED forerunners but doesn’t settle for a low resolution either.

That sleek OnePlus design – at a decent price

The success of the OnePlus range of smartphones has been in its ability to stay affordable compared to the competition – even if the company has moved more towards high-end devices in recent years.

And just as importantly, OnePlus phones look good. The smart TV need to offer a sleek design to stand out and sell itself as a lifestyle item as much as it does as a television. Maybe take a leaf from the smartphone arena with some more imaginative color options (like a limited edition red television)?

A smart TV platform that just works

Given that the OnePlus smartphone range runs on Android OS, we’d imagine a smart OnePlus TV would use the Android TV platform rather than create its own interface from scratch.

Android TV

There are a lot of perks for Android TV, being a widely-used platform and one that comes with Chromecast and therefore a large number of streaming services built in.

But it’s also prone to software bugs, and what we really want to see in a OnePlus TV is a smooth user experience, which is worth more than all the quantum dots in the world.

A connected service

We’d hope the OnePlus TV would find smart ways of connecting to handsets: using your phone as a stand-in remote, having a smartphone app to browse the TV guide or flick through the Netflix catalogue, and easy casting of video and images to the set.

With the smart home sector larger than ever, it would be really surprising not to see the likes of Alexa and Google Assistant built-in from the get-go, allowing you to connect to other devices around the home with ease.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on OnePlus TV announcement in the coming months, so stay tuned – if we’re sure of anything it’s that this will be one to watch.

  • OnePlus 6T release date, price, news and leaks

Sony’s robot puppy Aibo is looking for a US forever home

Whether you’re a golden retriever fanatic, a pug admirer, or a chihuahua enthusiast, you have to admit that being a dog lover can be a little frustrating at times. As much as we adore our canine companions, they wreak havoc on our homes, shedding fur, chewing slippers, and having ‘accidents’ on our freshly vacuumed carpets.

Well, Sony may have the answer to mess-free dog companionship with their endearing little robot puppy, Aibo, which is now available to buy in the US for the first time. The limited ‘First Litter Edition’ is an all-in-one bundle, which includes the robo-pup, a three-year AI Cloud plan, a pink ball, an ‘aibone’, a charging station, and an “individually numbered commemorative dog tag”. 

If you’ve already melted into a puddle of puppy-love induced goo, be warned: the Aibo First Litter Edition is vastly more expensive than your average pup at $2899.99, and if you pre-order now, your new family member could be with you in time for Christmas.

Not just for Christmas

The newest version of the Aibo has previously only been available in Japan, and it’s far smarter than its predecessors, with more artificial intelligence and powerful sensors that help it to understand and interact with its environment and its two accessories: a pink ball and chew toy.  

Designed to act like an untrained dog, you can teach Aibo like you would a new puppy, using positive reinforcement and voice commands, which it responds to with varying degrees of accuracy depending on how well it’s been trained. 

With the ability to recognize up to five people at a time and emotive responses to affectionate actions like petting and vocal reassurance, Aibo is sure to mollify even the grouchiest family member with its adorable OLED display eyes. 

The Aibo First Litter Edition is available to pre-order from the Sony website, with early purchasers set to receive their new bundle of joy in December 2018.

  • Hands on: Sony Aibo review

Windows 10 is losing the following features in the October 2018 Update

As Windows 10 continues to evolve, certain bits of functionality are ditched as a natural part of that process, and Microsoft has just highlighted the features which are being removed with the incoming October 2018 Update (and also the elements which are no longer being actively developed, generally because they’ve been incorporated elsewhere).

So what’s on the chopping block? Probably the most high-profile feature is the Snipping Tool, although technically it’s not being removed as such, but rather incorporated into Microsoft’s new Snip & Sketch app.

Snip & Sketch will let you pull off exactly the same screenshot capture tricks as the previous tool, with added functionality including the ability to delay the ‘snip’ from being taken as we saw in a recent Windows 10 preview build. So fret not, ardent snippers, you won’t be missing anything.

The Hologram app has got the boot, mainly because it’s been replaced with the Mixed Reality Viewer. Microsoft observes that you can still view 3D art in virtual reality with the latter (and of course you can knock up said art in the Paint 3D app).

Phone Companion

Microsoft notes that when you install the next big update, you’ll find that the Phone Companion app is no longer on your system. Again, you won’t be losing any of the features, because they have simply been incorporated into the Phone page under Settings.

There are a number of other minor features which have been ditched because their functionality is replicated elsewhere, as Microsoft details in its full list of what’s going on (as spotted by Thurrott.com).

So, for example, the OneSync service has been dropped – which syncs data across the Calendar, Mail and People apps – mainly because Microsoft has introduced a sync engine to the Outlook application which does the same job.

Windows 10 version 1809, which is the other name for the October 2018 Update, should arrive, as the name suggests, in October. As ever, though, the rollout will doubtless be spread over several months, so you may well be waiting until later in the year before you get all the new goodies from the update.

Those include a generous lick of paint for the interface (with a dark mode for File Explorer, too), a raft of improvements for gamers, a new Your Phone app and much more.

  • Some of the best laptops of 2018 are running Windows 10

Can AI actually make work more human?

Far from being the death knell for traditional jobs, AI could actually prove to make your work life better, new research has found.

A study by Goldsmiths, University of London and software firm Automation Anywhere found that companies who are investing in AI are seeing major benefits in productivity and efficiency from their employees.

Those companies that are utilising AI and robotic process automation (RPA) technology are actually “humanising” their workplace, the survey found, amplifying the “human experience” in the office.

“Think of the human body breathing,” said Mihir Shukla, CEO at Automation Anywhere.  “It’s a complex and critical mechanism, but automated, so our brains are freed to power everything else we do. I think for many organisations, all they can do is ‘breathe.’ It’s so important, it’s all the employees can focus on. 

  • What is AI? Everything you need to know

AI workplace tools

British companies were also found to be one of the biggest advocates of AI and RPA in the workplace, with 72 percent of organisations saying they were ready to take advantage of new opportunities.

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of British firms added their employees were more effective and enjoyed greater wellbeing thanks to augmentation, making the UK the market with the second-highest score for this category.

“Digital technology’s nascent autonomy promises an evolutionary leap in our capacity to grow as human beings,” said Dr. Chris Brauer, director of innovation in the Institute of Management Studies (IMS) at Goldsmiths, University of London. 

“While the hyped potential of AI generates endless headlines, technologies such as RPA are quietly being rolled out in many of the most productive companies around the world – humans and bots are already working alongside each other across the globe and in every sector. Where businesses are getting it right, the best of our human capabilities are being augmented by technology to create innovation before unimagined. But in these early days, not everyone is getting it right.”

  • These are the best AI platforms for business