Monday, July 31, 2017

Daydream VR Support Is Now Rolling Out To Galaxy S8 & S8 Plus Smartphones

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Google‘s Daydream VR support for the Galaxy S8 and the S8 Plus smartphones was announced a couple of months back. Ever since then, there was no info regarding the same, however, now the wait is finally over. Yes, both the flagship duo from Samsung, are now receiving an update which will make them Daydream VR ready. Well, yes, it’s about time now!

Google has just confirmed that the Daydream VR support is now rolling out to both the Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy S8 Plus. But do make a note that this is a server-side update and hence you, as an end user won’t exactly know when you can use the new VR functionality. However, if you want to make sure that you receive the update, then simply clear the Google VR Service app’s data. And if the update was already pushed to your phone, then doing this will automatically enable the feature.

Updating….

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Leaked Images Shows The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 In Midnight Black Color

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Samsung will be launching the new Galaxy Note 8 smartphone this month and we can’t wait to get our hands on the device. But when you talk about the specifics of the device, we pretty much know everything about it, thanks to all the leaks and rumors. However, now we have yet another leak and this time it is an image of the device in Midnight black color, which is one of the many color options in which the Note 8 will be offered in.

This leak is coming from Evan Blass, a known name in the industry when it comes to leaks. And talking about the leak, the image shows the Galaxy Note 8 from the front which is mostly taken by the Infinity display (if that is what Samsung is still calling it). The top and the bottom bezels are in black. The top also houses all the sensors and the front-facing camera. There is no home button and this makes us believe that it will be under the display and the fingerprint scanner will be at the back, just like the Galaxy S8.

We can also the power button to the right side and the on the left-hand side, we have the Bixby button and the volume rockers. The device looks exactly like the other leaked images so far and hence there is nothing new here. However, the fact that it is coming from a trusted source, helps us confirm the looks of the smartphone.

Talking about the specs, the Galaxy Note 8 is expected to sport a 6.3-inch display, making it the largest Galaxy Note smartphone ever to be released. This display is expected to sport a resolution of 2160 x 4428 pixels. Internally, the U.S. variants are expected to be powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC, and the international variants are expected to be powered by the Exynos 8895 chipset. We hope the whole battery situation would be sorted by now and the Galaxy Note 8 would be safe to be used by the consumers unlike the Note 7. Having said that, let us know your thoughts on this smartphone by leaving a comment down below.

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Origin EON15-S

As technology marches on, affordable, powerful gaming laptops have become commonplace. The Origin EON15-S is one such mobile PC gaming device, though it’s not without its compromises to earn that ‘affordable’ descriptor.

The EON15-S comes encased in a black frame, with the same sort of angles found in almost every modern gaming laptop. However, Origin offers a slew of design customizations, from different lid colors to your very own designs on the shell.

Customization extends beyond just the chassis, with RAM, processor, and storage options galore. The configuration we tested, at $1,381 (about £1,050, AU$1,729), is a decent value, too, but there are plenty of options to make yours cheaper, or more expensive. There's no 4K option, like the MSI GE62 Apache Pro, and the lowest configuration is $200 more than the low-end Dell Inspiron 15 7000 but, even at the low-end, it's still affordable for what’s inside and the additional free services Origin provides post-purchase.

Price and availability

The low-end EON15-S, with an Intel Core i3 processor and a paltry 120GB solid-state drive (SSD) for storage, sets you back $1,006 (about £780, AU$1323). Origin recommends an M.2 SSD for your OS, and even lets you add one for no extra cost. Strangely, you need to make sure to check the radio button on the configuration page, even though it's free.

Fully decked out, with an Intel Core i7 processor, 2TB Samsung 960 Pro SSD, 32GB of 2,666MHz RAM, a 6x-speed Blu-ray drive and an Elgato capture card pumps the price up to $3,414 (about £2,597, AU$4,274).

There are two constants in all configurations: the display and the graphics chip. Whether you go bone-stock or all-out, your EON15-S has the same 15-inch 1080p display and the same Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti. 

Since the 1050 Ti isn't aimed at 4K gaming, it makes sense not to offer a UHD display, but the 4GB of video RAM holds the EON15-S back. The 1050 Ti-configured Apache Pro is $1,399 (about £1,063, AU$1,751), making it a hair more expensive for a comparably specced laptop.

Design

The black laptop we tested isn't eye-catching in the least. It has just enough in the way of angular design flair to tip an outside observer off to its intended purpose as a gaming laptop. Where it really shines design-wise is in its multitude of case options. In addition to the stock black option, there are 8 other metallic colors to choose from, each adding $175 (about £133, AU$219) to the price. 

There's also a $249 (about £189, AU$311) "Hydro Dip" option, which replicates the look of carbon fiber. Then there are an 8 additional themes to choose from, with flames, battle scarring, and more. The themes each add $299 (about £227, AU$374) to the price, though opinions of these elements of flair are divisive.

Custom designs make personalization options for the EON15 limitless. The price is ‘to-be-determined,’ and requires coordination with Origin and extra lead-time. But, if you have a guild or clan logo you want emblazoned on the lid of your laptop, Origin's got your back.

Inside the laptop is a programmable, full-sized chiclet-style RGB keyboard. They keys are well spaced, but we don’t like the way the keys felt. Key travel is suitable, but typing on them feels a little mushy, lacking force when bouncing back into position. We found it less noticeable after a day or two of use, but the sludgy feeling never fully fades away.

However, we were left unimpressed by the trackpad. The buttons have a satisfying clickiness to them, but the multi-touch response is terrible. Two-finger scrolling is not possible in the way we've grown accustomed with nearly every multi-touch trackpad we've used. Normally, we’d place our pointer and middle fingers on a trackpad and scroll with impunity without giving it any thought.

The EON15-S won't have any of it. The cursor jumps all over the screen, sometimes clicking randomly, sometimes scrolling a tiny bit. We are able to properly scroll only by spreading our fingers way apart, which is uncomfortable and requires us to actively think out the gesture, rather than just doing it. We’ve ended up using the up and down arrow keys to scroll instead.

The IPS matte display is a delight. Colors really pop, and when you're configuring your laptop on the Origin website, there's an option to have the screen color-calibrated before it ships. That's awesome if you're a photographer or designer who needs true-to-life on-screen colors. Movies and games look sharp, and it's bright enough to take outside, although we wouldn't recommend it in full sun.

The EON15-S is comparable to both the Inspiron and the Apache Pro in both size and weight. The power brick is about what you'd expect size-wise, so slinging the EON15-S around in a laptop bag isn't too much of a problem. At exactly 5 pounds, it's the lightest of the three, but just barely, and we never felt like it was too heavy to use on your lap.

The EON15-S isn't a gaming powerhouse, but it's no slack, either. The Apache Pro benchmark results are nearly identical to the EON15-S – not surprising since both have nearly identical configurations.

It beats the Inspiron, thanks to an i7-7700HQ, as opposed to the Dell’s i5-7300HQ. All three have the GeForce GTX 1050 Ti powering graphics, and that's where they all run into a wall.

The 4GB configuration is less than the required video RAM needed to run Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and Grand Theft Auto 5 in their Ultra settings.

As such, dire performance warnings appear after changing the settings, begging us to turn things down a tick or two. 

The EON15-S absolutely hates Ultra settings on both GTA 5 and Deus Ex.

It's a bummer that the EON15-S is only available with the 1050 Ti, because a stronger card would definitely help push it to levels of greatness.

That's not to say the EON15-S stumbles as a gaming laptop. Far from it. It's perfectly capable of running most modern games at medium settings, and older games will absolutely benefit from the power of Nvidia's 10-series.

Battery life

The EON15-S handles its power well, with minimal fan noise and heat. It also does OK with battery life.

While it fails to come close to reaching the Inspiron's 5 hours 51 minutes of battery life in the PCMark battery test, it handily defeats the Apache Pro's 1 hour, 47 minutes. It's nice to not have to suffer from outlet anxiety, but you still can't go long without needing to charge up.

Sounds clouded

The speakers in the EON15-S are, frankly, terrible. They're hollow and tinny, and the worst we've tested in a while.

After a few seconds listening to one of our favorite albums, we shut it down and reached for the headphones. There's no configuration option for better speakers, either – only ways to improve headphone performance. It's rare to find a set of laptop speakers that sound full and crisp, but it's almost as rare to find a set that sound this poorly.

We liked

For midrange laptop gaming with decent battery life at an approachable price point for what’s inside, the EON15-S is a sound choice. The available customization options are welcome, so tweaking it to your liking is as easy as clicking a few radio buttons before checkout.

We disliked

The speakers are a nightmare and the trackpad is incredibly frustrating. At its most basic configuration, the design of the EON15-S fails to make any statement.

Final verdict

On paper, there's no question the EON15-S is a bargain. You get an i7-7700HQ processor and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti for just a bit less than a similarly-equipped MSI GE62 Apache Pro, with comparable performance and a much better battery. The design customizations are mostly cool, helping you stand out from the crowd for additional cash.

As nice as it is to be able to infinitely customize the design, the lack of graphics options holds the EON15-S back. For everything it does right, like the screen, RGB keyboard, and long battery life, it steps back close to where it started with atrocious speakers and a frustrating trackpad.

Taking two steps forward only to take one step back leaves the EON15-S little better than the rest of the crowd, making it a completely competent, completely ordinary gaming laptop.

Samsung Gear S2

Update: The Samsung Gear S2 is still a fine choice if you're an Android user, but there are a few reasons that you may want to consider the Samsung Gear S3

The Gear S3 features a larger battery, has GPS built-in and offers a bit more RAM than the Gear S2. If those features are crucial to you, you may want to redirect your attention to Samsung's new wearable gear.

Focusing back on the now-more-affordable Gear S2, Samsung has recently issued an update that brings the awaited iOS support, and another that brought along some minor improvements, including automatic sleep tracking, some added S Voice commands, and the ability to import your own photo as a watch face, among many other things.

You'll find the Gear S2 sitting cozy on our list of best smartwatches, next to some stiff competition from Apple, LG, Huawei and other large device manufacturers.

And because time never stops, even for smartwatch makers, we've put together a source for all of the rumors and what we'd like to see in the Samsung Gear S4. Samsung's wearables lineup has received an update every August and we expect it to follow suit for the fourth iteration, possible at IFA 2017.

Original review follows below.

In the past Samsung had a scattergun approach to wearable design, releasing numerous devices with varying form and functionality. It was great if you were looking for something different to the all-too-similar Android Wear devices, but with hindsight, Samsung's first attempts weren't very good.

Fast forward to now, Samsung has a much more cohesive, well thoughtout approach in the Gear S2. It's clear without even touching the new watch, the company practically went back to the drawing board to craft a wearable truly worth your attention.

When looking at the Gear S2, it's obvious that Samsung has learnt from its past successes and failures. It's much more wearable than their previous attempts, it looks good and it's comfortable. More importantly the updated Tizen OS has been perfectly tailored to a smartwatch screen, with perhaps the best user interface I've seen on a smartwatch, making excellent use of the tactile rotating bezel.

Tizen also, however, leads to one of the devices biggest downfalls - it's an immature developer platform, and it lacks apps. But for now, let's look at the positives.

Samsung Gear S2 on wrist

Unlike previous Samsung wearables, the Gear S2 isn't limited to those with a Samsung smartphone. The Gear S2 is compatible with most Android phones, and one day could even be compatible with iPhones.

With prices starting at £249.99 ($299.99, around AU$428), it's competitively priced against the Apple Watch and latest generation Moto 360.

Display

The Samsung Gear S2 features a fully circular Super AMOLED touchscreen measuring 1.2-inches in diameter. That makes it smaller than the displays on the Huawei Watch and Moto 360. Despite having a smaller screen than its rivals, it doesn't impact usability, at no point during my testing did I feel limited by the size.

The device really impresses with a really high resolution of 360 x 360 pixels. Thanks to the relatively small screen, this gives a pixel density of 302ppi, matching the 42mm Apple Watch's retina display as the sharpest smartwatch screen available right now.

The pixel density really stands out when putting the Samsung Gear S2 next to other circular smartwatches (including the new Moto 360 and LG Watch Urbane). It's visibly much sharper, and clearer as a result.

Samsung Gear S2 Screen

It's my opinion - and that of the TechRadar team in general - that circular displays are more aesthetically appealing than the square displays of the Apple Watch and Sony Smartwatch 3. It just looks more like a traditional, analogue watch. In terms of functionality, it's hard to make a case for it being better or worse.

Samsung claims the sAMOLED (that's not a typo, the S stands for Super) reflects one-fifth as much sunlight as regular AMOLED displays. I didn't have any problems viewing the watch in direct sunlight, usually keeping to the eighth brightness level (out of ten). As it's AMOLED, the colours look lovely and saturated.

There's a noticeable gap between the display and the top layer of glass on the screen. You'd think this has a negative effect on viewing angles, particular in sunlight, but that is not the case. It does make the watch appear a little more retro however.

Just like ambient mode on Android Wear, the Gear S2 has an 'always on' screen option. In this mode the screen will dim after several seconds of inactivity, however, the time will still be displayed with a reduced interface. It's a useful feature that allows you to view the time without needing to raise your arm and flick your wrist to wake the screen, as with the Apple Watch, though it does reduce battery life.

Smartwatches have become really quite attractive objects recently, just look at the Apple Watch, Moto 360 and Pebble Round. Now, the Samsung Gear S2 continues this trajectory.

The circular Gear S2 comes in two models, the standard model, reviewed here, and a 'Classic' one. The standard Gear S2 features a rubber strap, and a sporty aesthetic, while the Classic has a design which pays homage to more traditional timepieces, with a leather strap.

Samsung Gear S2

The two models also have different dimensions, with the sporty model measuring 42.3 x 49.8 x 11.4 mm, and the Classic a slightly smaller 39.9 x 43.6 x 11.4 mm. I'd say they're an optimum size, and although some of the dimensions are larger than that of some rivals, the Gear is less bulky overall, and feels smaller as a result. If you're already a regular watch wearer, male or female, the size of the Samsung Gear S shouldn't be an issue.

The watch weighs 47g, so is comfortable to wear for long periods of time, and doesn't feel like a dead weight on your wrist. If you prefer your watch big and chunky however, you may wish to look elsewhere.

Where the design of the Gear S2 does lose marks is the number of customisation options. The Apple Watch, and Moto 360 (via Moto Maker) allow a huge range of design choices to make a watch personal to the wearer. In comparison, Samsung only offers the Gear S2 in white or black.

The Classic is only available with a black leather strap, too, but it accepts any 22mm watch strap, allowing you to customise it with any third party strap.

However, the more sporty S2 features a proprietary locking mechanism, which very few accessory manufacturers have decided to adopt, so far.

Samsung Gear S2 Rear

It's not the end of the world that Samsung has included so few personalisation options, but it does seem like a decision that's counter to the more personalised way wearables are advancing.

The Samsung Gear S2 isn't a particularly premium feeling device, it's certainly no match for the Huawei Watch or Apple Watch, but the rubber strap and metal casing feels durable and well made.

The design doesn't look cheap, it's understated and looks good, just in a slightly utilitarian kind of way.

Others in the office think the Gear S2 looks more like a tech product than a watch. Personally, I like the fact it doesn't try to copy a traditional watch design, it looks futuristic, but not overly so.

The Samsung Gear S2 features two buttons on the right-hand side of the device. These act as a home button, and a back button. They're well positioned, making them easy to press, although, as they're identical, learning which button does what might take a while.

Samsung Gear S2 Buttons

The main control of the Gear S2 is hidden in plain sight - the rotating metal bezel. It's not an exaggeration when I say this bezel is one of the best things that has happened to smartwatch user experience. It's better than Apple's Digital Crown, for a start. It works in a similar way to Apple's controller, scrolling through various menus and information pages, but the bezel feels much more intuitive, and very tactile, with a pleasing click motion.

On the rear of the watch you'll find a centralised optical heart rate monitor, and two mechanisms for releasing the straps. Despite these clips being on the rear of the device, there's no chance of accidentally unlocking the straps. They're in place very securely.

The Samsung Gear S2 is rated IP68, which means it's dust and water resistant. You could happily wear it in the shower or during torrential rain.

Battery Life

Samsung has equipped the Gear S2 with a 250mAh battery, which is actually quite small for a modern smartwatch (most have 300mAh or higher).

Samsung claims this is good for around two or three days use with always on display turned off, and around 1.5 days with it turned on. I found this to be absolutely spot on, with the watch lasting around three days with mixed use at a push.

When the battery life gets to around five percent, the Gear S2 will prompt you to activate battery saving mode, which reduces a majority of features to stretch out battery life a little longer. This is a very effective feature, though it does leave the S2 severely underpowered until you get to a plug socket.

Samsung Gear S2 on Wireless Charger

In short, the battery life is good, better than most of its Android Wear counterparts, even if it's certainly not a stand out performer like the Pebble Time. I'd love to see a five-day battery life, but realistically that's not going to happen.

Charging the battery to full takes around an hour, which isn't bad. The charging connector is a combination of the Moto 360 charger and the Apple Watch dock. The Gear S2 features wireless charging, and sits in its cradle with magnets, stopping the wearable from falling out.

It's a really neat little dock, and features an LED on the front which turns from red to green when the watch has finished charging.

The watch supports the QI wireless charging standard, which means you can place it on any compatible QI dock and it'll start drawing power.

The Samsung Gear S2 functions like any other smartwatch, it alerts you to texts, emails and other smartphone notifications, tracks your steps, a runs a number of apps.

When you receive a smartphone notification, the watch vibrates, and displays the message. You can choose to dismiss it, or interact with it.

In order to make the most of the rotating bezel, Samsung has decided the Gear S2 should run its own Tizen operating system. This is a risky strategy, which has both positive and negative repercussions.

Of course, as well as using the bezel to navigate the device, you could also use the touch screen. Although I rarely found myself doing that while testing.

Samsung Gear S2 UI

We'll start with the positives, first by looking at Samsung's main rivals, neither of which have a perfect operating system. The Apple Watch is very fiddly, and has a lot of functions hidden away behind Force Touch, which is not as intuitive as it should be.

In comparison, Android Wear is much more intuitive, but it requires a lot of swiping and tapping to navigate, which isn't ideal on such a small screen. Although you can use voice control on both, if you're socially ready for that.

The Gear S2 takes the best of each OS, and combines them to create the best UI we've seen on a smartwatch. Tizen is very similar to Android Wear, with your home screen watch face, and then different cards for at-a-glance information. Whereas navigating the cards on Android Wear requires furious swiping, those in Tizen can be viewed with one fluid twist of the bezel.

While Android Wear is coming on leaps and bounds, Google doesn't let manufacturers apply their own UIs, so Tizen really helps to differentiate the Gear S2 from the hoard of Android Wear watches out there.

From the watch face rotating the dial clockwise scrolls through information cards, these tell you information such as steps taken, calendar appointments, weather, music controls and shortcuts to other functions, such as apps and favourite contacts. Tap on these pages, and more information is displayed about them.

Samsung Gear S2 Notifications

Rotate the bezel anti-clockwise and you're shown the most recent notifications from your smartphone, including emails, texts and missed calls. Tapping on an email allows you to read the entire text, scrolling down using the rotating bezel. Tapping on the three dots to the left of a message brings up the options, allowing you to archive, delete, reply, open on phone, block or clear all notifications.

Reply to messages can be done one of three ways, either with programmable set messages, emoji, or using a T9-esque predictive keyboard.

Apps are presented as one long list with multiple pages which you can scroll through with the bezel. It's not as simple as the Apple Watch app list (but it is less fiddly), and easier to navigate than Android Wear.

Pressing the button near the five o'clock position will either take you to the app page, or home, depending where you are, and the button at the two o'clock position will send you back one screen. These buttons can take some getting used to, but they make navigating a breeze.

If you long press on the lock screen you're given the option to change watch faces, and unlike the Google Now cards on Android Wear, the cards of information on Tizen can be organised, so you can see the information you want first. That's a big benefit.

Samsung Gear S2 App

Watch faces are plentiful, and Samsung provide some pleasing options to customise their standard designs (change the dial, complications or hands, for example). This is best done on the companion smartphone application.

One of our favourite features has to be an SOS alert. Pressing the 5 o'clock button three times in quick succession sends an SOS alert to a selected contact, along with your GPS location. Very James Bond.

As I mentioned, the Gear S2 bezel controller is a real breakthrough. That's just as well, since the other way of interacting with the watch - voice control - is pretty poor.

You can wake up voice control with a programmable command, just like 'OK Google', or 'Hey Siri'. We went with 'S Voice', the name of the software. It takes what feels like an age to wake up, and once awake doesn't get much faster. It's definitely enough to put you off voice control, but may be adequate in emergency situations.

Specs and Performance

The Samsung Gear S2 comes packing a 1GHz processor and 512MB of RAM. That's only a tad lower spec than the high-end Android Wear devices, which have 1.2GHz processors. Actually, the same chipset has recently appeared in the Samsung Gear Fit 2, the company's latest fitness tracker.

Apps generally open quickly, but larger, more processor intensive apps such as Here Maps can take a while to load.

Samsung Gear S2

The Gear S2 has 4GB of storage on board for music and apps, which is plenty. I'm nowhere near filling it up.

The internal specs and performance are on par with the latest watches from other Apple and Motorola et al. The Tizen OS is snappy and responsive, and I didn't experience any slowdowns during testing.

In terms of sensors, Samsung has included an accelerometer, gyroscope, heart rate sensor, ambient light sensor, and barometer.

There's no GPS, so it's not going to serve as a proper running watch, despite its sporty styling. Saying that, it'll still count your steps and monitor your heart rate throughout the day, this can be viewed on your smartphone by downloading the Samsung S Heath app.

The watch connects to your smartphone with Bluetooth 4.1, and further connectivity options appear in the form of Wi-Fi and NFC.

Samsung Gear S2 Settings Page

Wi-Fi isn't new for a smartwatch, but it's a great inclusion, meaning the watch can continue to receive notifications even if your phone is elsewhere.

NFC is used for Samsung Pay contactless payment, which only works if you also have a Samsung phone.

Apps

Apps are accessed through the Gear S2's smartphone companion app. It allows you to search the store, and organises them into best picks, categories, or the most popular.

This is where Tizen has a negative impact on the watch. Whereas Pebble, Android Wear and Watch OS 2 are relatively well established operating systems with a flourishing user and developer base, Tizen is comparatively barren.

Currently, there are very few big name apps available in the store. Launch apps like Nike+, Yelp, ESPN, Flipboard, Here Maps, Line and Lifesum are all present, but after that the list is a bit more 'independent' and lacking in quality.

Samsung Gear S2 Apps Page

Some of these are really useful, Here Maps is great for navigation, and the Nike+ app is very competent at fitness tracking, but it's a shame there isn't a wealth of choice when it comes to apps.

There's also a disappointing list of third party watch faces, with very few customisation options available.

Will this change? I hope so, as it would be a shame to see Samsung's efforts wasted because developers didn't adopt the platform. The preloaded Samsung apps are fine however, they all work and look fairly standard.

Compatibility

In the past Tizen has only been compatible with Samsung smartphones, greatly limiting their potential user base. Thankfully, the Gear S2 is compatible with any Android phone running 4.4 and higher with over 1.5GB RAM. I tested it using a Moto X Style and HTC One M8, neither of which caused any problems.

More recently, Samsung has added iOS compatibility for any phone running at least iOS 9. In our experience, it's not much different than using the Gear S2 on an Android phone, and that's a good thing.

Competitors

Starting with the Android Wear-toting Huawei Watch. In terms of internal specifications, the Huawei Watch is more powerful, with 1.2GHz processor against the S2's 1GHz processor. Is that noticeable? Not really, the Tizen OS seems just as slick as Android Wear, although opening apps can take a little time. The Huawei Watch has lower resolution screen than the S2, 304 ppi vs 286 ppi. Both are very good screens, vibrant, but the S2 edges it slightly (both are fully circular, unlike the Moto 360).

The design of the Huawei Watch is a little more chunky, but it feels well-made, solid, and more premium. That does come at a cost however, with the starting cost around £299 (US$349.99, around AU$549), a little more than the Samsung Gear S2 which starts around £249.99 ($299.99, around AU$428) - but can be found for as little as £200 online.

Also competing with the Samsung's Gear S2 is the Moto 360, which, like the Huawei Watch, also runs Android Wear.

The Moto 360 is beautifully designed smartwatch, the internal specifications are identical to that of the Huawei Watch's, but the screen is by far the worst of the bunch. It's an LCD panel with a ppi of 233. It's a desirable Android Wear smartwatch, but it's far from the best.

The Samsung Gear S2 is currently our favourite smartwatch, the innovative bezel makes navigating the interface intuitive and simple. The watch is well made, but in my opinion, it's not as desirable as the Moto 360 or the Huawei Watch - it misses that 'luxe'. The Gear S2 resembles a piece of technology, it's 'futuristic chic', but the Moto 360 and Huawei Watch are more traditional, and fashion focused.

The lack of apps does let down the Gear S2 down. The Gear Store is certainly barren in comparison to the Google Play Store. I haven't really found that to be a problem, as apps are one of the features I find myself using the least. Maybe you're different, maybe not.

When the Samsung Gear S2 was first released it was more expensive than the Moto 360, priced around £249.99 ($299.99, around AU$428). But now the cost of the watch has fallen a little bit, so both can be picked up for around the same price.

Apple Watch

Although not a direct competitor, it's also interesting to compare the Gear S2 to the Apple Watch, because that rivalry is always entertaining.

Both of the screens have a pixel density of 304 ppi, both are vibrant, the difference being the Apple Watch is rectangular and the Gear S2 is circular. It's my opinion that circular displays look nicer.

The bezel and crown work the same way, but for me, the rotating bezel is more intuitive to use. The UI of the Gear S2 is easier to navigate, while the Watch OS 2 is more fiddly.

The Apple Watch feels more premium, has more strap options and a tonne more apps. That does come at a premium price, with the Apple Watch starting at £299 ($349, AU$499).

I'm pretty enthusiastic about the Samsung Gear S2 - unusually so for a wearable, which have rapidly settled into a furrow of competent sameiness. There's a lot to like here, even if it's by no means perfect. Here are my final thoughts on the device.

We Liked

The rotating bezel is a true smartwatch innovation, it makes navigating Tizen OS a breeze, and reduces the amount of unnecessary swiping and tapping. It certainly improves the user experience, with a lovely smooth mechanism, which clicks when you turn it.

Tizen OS is also pretty decent, it clearly shows Samsung has taken a measured approach, taking the best aspects from Apple's Watch OS 2, and Android Wear. It's simple to navigate, and customisable, so you can access the information you want quickly. Given time, we'd expect this to get even better with software updates.

The sAMOLED screen on the Samsung Gear S2 is also a real standout feature, it's incredibly sharp, vibrant, and fully circular. It's the sharpest screen available on a smartwatch, equaling the Apple Watch's 302ppi.

We Disliked

Although Tizen UI is one of the device's biggest advantages, it also introduces a few problems. Mainly, it lacks an established developer base, the app store has very few high-quality apps in. As Samsung is a relatively big name, we expect this to change, but right now app fans might be disappointed.

S Voice is also a let down compared to Google and even Siri. It's slow, and doesn't provide a good enough reason to use it on a regular basis. It certainly feels like this is something that can be worked on, though the saving grace is that the alternative control mechanism – the bezel – is the best to date.

Verdict

The Samsung Gear S2 is one of the best smartwatches on the market, the Korean company have clearly learnt a lot from their previous attempts, and their rivals.

It's the embodiment of Samsung's tendency to iterate under the spotlight, the culmination of several attempts to nail a type of product that we collectively have only just begun to understand.

The device really feels like a step forward in smartwatch design, the rotating bezel, and Tizen OS are genuinely useful innovations. We can't wait to see this start popping up on other smartwatches.

Of course, Samsung's rivals are also advancing, the Moto 360, Huawei Watch and Apple Watch are all getting better as well. It's an encouraging sign for smartwatch enthusiasts.

The Samsung Gear S2 is without doubt one of the best smartwatches available, and it's definitely worth considering over similarly priced Android Wear devices.

ASUS To Launch The ZenFone 4 Smartphone On August 19

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The Taiwanese smartphone manufacturer is going to unveil the new ZenFone 4 smartphone on August 19 in the Philippines. The same has been confirmed through the invite which reads, “Save the date 08.19.17.” The invite also shows a dual-camera setup which pretty much confirms the fact that this smartphone will have a dual camera setup. If you wish you to know more about it, then we suggest you stay tuned to PhoneRadar for more info.

Earlier – ASUS is expected to launch the new ZenFone 4 smartphone very soon and we have already seen a couple of rumors for the same. The company has already launched the ZenFone 4 Max smartphone in Russia and it is now time that we see this smartphone as well. As we are getting closer to the expected launch date, the company has now started teasing the smartphone in its social media handle. The company has posted a couple of teaser images, which hints at a specific feature of the smartphone.

Taking a look at the teaser images, it is quite obvious that the company is hinting at a dual camera setup for the primary camera. All the teaser images that were posted in the company’s official handle hints at a dual camera setup. However, nothing in specific was revealed by the company in terms of the specs of the same. But now we are certain that the company is mainly focusing on giving more importance to the camera with the ZenFone 4 smartphone.

In terms of the specs, it is expected that the smartphone will sport a 5.5-inch FHD display on the front. Internally, it is expected to be powered by an octa-core SoC, however, the exact model of the same is not known yet. It looks like this SoC will be coupled with 6GB of RAM along with an expandable internal storage. As mentioned earlier, the camera on this smartphone appears to be dual camera setup and we expect to learn more on this very soon.

As far as the other launches from the company are concerned, this year we will be getting a ton of ZenFone 4 series smartphones. Previously we had reported about the company planning on launching a bunch of them. So if you are in the market to buy an ASUS smartphone, then 2017 is certainly going to be a year to look out for. Also, the last years’ ZenFone 3 is still most of the best smartphones you can buy for the price. You can read our full written review for the same to learn more about it. Having said that, we would like to know your thoughts on this. Would you be interested in buying the new ASUS ZenFone 4 smartphone? Be sure to let us know your thoughts on this.

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Best 4G Smartphones in India Above Rs 15,000 – August 2017

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After disrupting the Sub-Rs. 10,000 price segment, the Chinese smartphone manufacturers are now more focusing at a slightly higher price bracket. We have a few devices launched in the month of July and interestingly, most of the devices are also sold through the offline market. Also, check out the best upcoming smartphones of August 2017.

All the below-mentioned devices support 4G VoLTE (Voice over LTE) and can be used with the Jio 4G SIM.

Samsung Galaxy On Max

Just after launching the Galaxy J7 Pro and J7 Max, Samsung also launched a new mid-range smartphone called Galaxy On Max. Interestingly, the Galaxy On Max looks similar to the Galaxy J7 Max. The Galaxy On Max costs Rs. 16,900 and is available exclusively through Flipkart. It sports 5.7-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) display but misses the AMOLED panel. It is powered by the MediaTek Helio P25 octa-core processor clocked at 2.39GHz. The device also features 4GB of RAM and 32GB of onboard storage with MicroSD card slot. It runs on the latest Android 7.0 Nougat with the TouchWiz UI on top. On the rear is a 13MP shooter with f/1.7 aperture and LED flash. For selfies, the company is offering the same 13MP sensor but with f/1.9 aperture. It is backed by a 3,300mAh battery and supports dual SIM dual standby. The physical home button includes the fingerprint sensor and supports Samsung Pay Mini.

Buy Now: Galaxy On Max

Nubia N2

Earlier in March this year, Nubia launched the Nubia N2 along with the Nubia M2 and Nubia M2 Lite smartphones in China. Now, the company has brought the Nubia N2 to the Indian market for Rs.15,999. The USP of the device is its 5,000mAh battery that is rated to give up to 60 hours of talk time. It comes with metal built unibody design with a 2.5D curved glass on the top. The smartphone comes with a 5.5-inch AMOLED display with HD (1280 x 720 pixels) resolution. Under the hood is the MediaTek MT6750 octa-core processor clocked at 1.5GHz. It comes coupled with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. In the camera department, there is a 13MP rear camera with f/2.2 aperture and dual tone LED flash. On the front is a 16MP selfie camera with f/2.0 aperture and 80-degree wide-angle lens. It supports dual SIM dual standby using the hybrid slot. The device measures 155 x 75 x 7.9 mm and weighs 180 grams.

Buy Now: Nubia N2

Kodak Ektra

Back in October 2016, Kodak launched its new Android smartphone called Kodak Ektra. Now in July 2017, the company launched it here in India for Rs. 19,990. The smartphone will be sold exclusively through Flipkart. The USP of this camera-centric smartphone is its 21MP rear camera with custom built camera app and scene selection dial. It also offers fast focus with f/2.0 aperture, OIS, and PDAF. For selfies, there is a 13MP front facing camera with f/2.2 aperture and PDAF. Talking about other specifications, the Ektra comes with a 5-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) resolution. Under the hood is the MediaTek Helio X20 deca-core processor clocked at 2.3GHz. It also packs 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage that can be further expanded via MicroSD card slot. It packs a 3,000mAh battery and supports fast charging using the USB Type-C port. With the additional dial, the device measure 9.69 mm in thickness.

Buy Now: Kodak Ektra

Nubia M2

Nubia M2 is another high-end smartphone from the Chinese manufacturer, Nubia. It comes with a price tag of Rs. 22,999 and is sold exclusively through Amazon India. The device will be available in Champagne Gold and Black Gold color options. It sports a 5.5-inch AMOLED display with Full HD resolution and is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 octa-core processor. The device includes 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. It sports 13MP dual camera setup on the rear with f/2.2 aperture and Sapphire glass protection. There is also a 16MP camera on the front with f/2.0 aperture and 80-degree wide-angle lens for selfies. Even with all the high-end specifications, the Nubia M2 still runs on Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow based Nubia UI 4.0. The physical home button on the front also comes with an integrated fingerprint sensor. It is backed by a 3,630mAhnon-removable battery with NeoPower fast charging technology.

Buy Now: Nubia M2

Xiaomi Mi Max 2

A couple of weeks back, Xiaomi has launched a new phablet called Mi Max 2 in India. Unlike in China, the smartphone comes only in one variant and is priced at Rs. 16,999. The Mi Max 2 units sold in India will be assembled locally at the Sri City plant in Andhra Pradesh. It will be available via all the major online and offline retailers. It sports a 6.44-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection. Under the hood is the power efficient Snapdragon 625 octa-core processor coupled with 4GB of RAM. There is 64GB of internal storage which should be good enough for multimedia consumption. It runs on Android 7.1.1 Nougat based MIUI 8 out of the box. It also packs a 12MP rear camera with f/2.2 aperture and a 5MP front camera with f/2.0 aperture. The device is kept powered on by a 5,300mAh non-removable battery and supports Quick Charge 3.0 fast charging technology. It measures 174.1 x 88.7 x 7.6 mm and weighs 211 grams.

Buy Now: Mi Max 2

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Amazon Fire HD 8 (2017)

Update: If you're in the US, this Amazon Fire HD 8 bundle is $10 off for a limited time when you use the "TechRadar" in the promo code box.

Amazon has updated one of its mid-range tablets to make it even better than before, but if you own one already is it worth upgrading to?

The Fire HD 8 (2017) isn't a top of the range monster like the new iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab S3, but it does offer up some impressive specs considering its low price point.

If you're in the market for an affordable Amazon tablet, keep reading below for more details on the slate and our first impressions.

Amazon Fire HD 8 (2017) price and release date

Amazon is selling this new tablet from June 7 in the US and the UK. There's no word on a release in Australia from Amazon and considering the last Amazon Fire HD 8 didn't get released there we don't expect to see this new version either.

Pricing-wise, the Fire HD 8 (2017) is more expensive than the Amazon Fire (2017), but not by too much.

You can buy the 16GB version - the cheapest - for only $79.99 (£79.99), which is £10/$10 cheaper than the last version of the tablet. That's quite impressive given how cheap the last model was, and it's a price that's sure to appeal to those looking for a budget slate.

Amazon Fire HD 8 (2017) design

Much like the Amazon Fire (2017) and the tablets that have gone before it, the Fire HD 8 (2017) comes with a plastic back. It may look a little childish, but we can't expect a beautifully designed tablet for the price of the HD 8.

This is a little more difficult to hold than the 7-inch version of the tablet, so you'll need to use two hands to hold this while you're watching films or playing games.

The top edge of the tablet hosts the 3.5mm headphone jack, volume rocker, power button and micro USB for charging. That means all the other edges are button-free and it can be a touch easier to hold because of that.

We do find we have to look at the buttons on the top of the tablet before pressing them though, as they're so bunched together.

You'll have the choice of black, blue, red and yellow colors, plus there are a selection of cases up for sale if you're not a fan of the original design.

Amazon Fire HD 8 (2017) display

Amazon hasn't upgraded the screen for the HD 8 (2017), so you still get a display that's just above 720p resolution.

Specifically, you'll get an 8-inch display at 1280 x 800, which equals 189 pixels-per-inch. If you've owned a tablet with a better resolution in the past you'll likely be disappointed with the screen quality here, but the picture quality is fine if you're not expecting the best in the world.

Amazon Fire HD 8 (2017) specs 

A major upgrade for the new version of the Fire HD 8 is dual-band Wi-Fi support. That means you'll be able to use both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi bands you can access at home and as a result you'll hopefully be able to get slightly quicker internet when downloading to your tablet.

According to Amazon, the new version of the tablet has improved battery as well. There's a 12 hour predicted battery life time on the Fire HD 8 (2017), we'll let you know whether it actually manages that when we do our full review soon.

When it comes to storage, you'll have 16GB or 32GB options to buy, but each also has microSD support of up to 256GB. There's also a 1.3GHz quad-core chipset powering the Fire HD 8 (2017) - that's the same set up as last year's tablet and worked OK when we tested it.

One of the big highlights of the new Amazon Fire HD 8 (2017) for UK users is the addition of Alexa integration with the tablet (US users already have this).

It means you can see updates from Amazon's voice assistant directly on your tablet, or you can even ask Alexa to open up apps on the slate. In our limited testing we found that it worked well.

There are also cameras on the Amazon Fire HD 8 (2017), but neither will be able to take particularly impressing shots. There's a 5MP shooter on the back while the front has a camera that can record 720p video, so it will likely suit you if you want to use the Fire HD 8 for video chatting.

Early verdict

The improvements upon the last version of the Amazon Fire HD 8 are limited here, but the price drop is appreciated.

There's seemingly almost no reason to go for the 7-inch Amazon Fire (2017) when this version is quite cheap too, with a larger and higher resolution screen, but both of Amazon's new slates look set be the among the cheapest and best value around.

LG V30 Leaked Schematics Shows Dual Rear Cameras & A Tall FullVision Display

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LG is all set to launch the new V30 smartphone in the V series. This device will be succeeding the previously launched V20 smartphone last year. The V20 was a great smartphone by itself, and it is in fact, one of the best smartphones you can buy. You can read our full written review of the LG V20 for more details on the same. And now talking about the new V30 smartphone, we have yet another leak and this time we have schematics confirming a few details about the smartphone.

The first thing which you notice upon gazing the schematics for the first time is the tall FullVision display on the front. There is no sign of the secondary display like we have been seeing with all the V series smartphones. This one looks very similar to the one which we have on the LG G6 smartphone. But yes, if you are a fan of the secondary ticker display, then you are in for a disappointment. There is pretty much nothing else on the front other than the tall display.

The fingerprint scanner and the dual rear camera setup is in the same place. This is something which all of us have gotten used to with LG smartphones and the company doesn’t seem to be interested in changing anything. The fingerprint scanner also houses the power button and the volume rocker sits to the left side. other than that, there is nothing else unusual about it and hence we don’t have anything else to report.

Now, talking about the specs, the LG V30 is expected to sport a 5.7-inch display. This is again expected to have a 9:18 aspect ratio. Internally this smartphone is expected to be powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC, which LG couldn’t get its hands on for the G6. We can expect this smartphone to have upto 6GB of RAM as well since that more or less looks like a very common thing now. Overall, the device looks very similar to the LG G6 and in terms of the performance, we expect it to perform equally good, if not better. Having said that, we would like to know your thoughts on this. Be sure to share your opinions by leaving a comment down below.

Source – Twitter

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Best 4G Smartphones in India Below Rs 10,000 – August 2017

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With the fierce competition in the smartphone market, the manufacturers are offering best possible hardware for their respective price segments. The high-end features like dual-lens camera and 4GB of RAM are now available at sub Rs. 10,000 price range. The consumers can purchase a new smartphone at Rs. 7,000 or Rs. 8,000 without compromising the performance. Most of these smartphones even come with a fingerprint sensor to enhance the security. Also, check out the best upcoming smartphones of August 2017.

Below is the list of latest smartphones priced under Rs. 10,000 in India.

Yu Yunique 2

Yu Yunique 2 is the latest smartphone from Yu Televentures, the subsidiary of Micromax. It comes with a price tag of Rs. 5,999 and is sold exclusively through Flipkart. It sports a 5-inch HD (1280 x 720 pixels) IPS display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection on top. The Yunique 2 is powered by MediaTek MT6737 quad-core processor clocked at 1.3GHz. There is 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage that can be expandable up to 64GB. It runs on the latest Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box and uses the TrueCaller as the native dialer app. In the camera department, there is a 13MP rear camera with LED flash and a 5MP front camera for selfies. It is backed by a 2,500mAh battery and lacks fast charging support. The Yunique 2 measures 145 x 72.7 x 9.15 mm and weighs 159 grams.

Buy Now: Yu Yunique 2

Xolo Era 1X Pro

The Indian smartphone manufacturer, Xolo has launched the Era 1X Pro smartphone as an upgraded variant of the Era 1X. Apart from a couple of upgrades, the Era 1X Pro comes with almost same specifications as its successor, and even the design looks same. The new Era 1X Pro is priced at Rs. 5,888 and is available exclusively through Snapdeal. The 5MP shooter on the front comes with dual tone LED flash for capturing selfies even in low light conditions. The Xolo Era 1X Pro sports a 5-inch display with HD (1280 x 720 pixels) resolution. It houses an unspecified quad-core processor clocked at 1.5GHz and comes coupled with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of onboard storage. On the rear is an 8MP primary camera with LED flash. Connectivity options include 4G VoLTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, FM radio, 3.5mm audio jack, and a MicroUSB 2.0 port.

Buy Now: Era 1X Pro

Zopo Speed X

Zopo Mobiles has launched a new budget smartphone called Speed X in India for Rs. 9,499. It will be sold via major online stores and comes with AI-based chatbot called Niki. The Speed X will be made available in Royale Gold, Charcoal Black, Orchid Gold, and Space Grey colors. The USP of the device is its dual camera setup featuring 13MP and 2MP sensors. For selfies, there is another 13MP sensor on the front. Both the cameras are accompanied with LED flash. It runs on the latest Android 7.0 Nougat out-of-the-box. It comes with a 5-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) IPS display and is powered by MediaTek MT6753 octa-core processor. The device also includes 3GB of RAM and 32GB of expandable storage. It is backed by a 2,680mAh non-removable battery and measures just 8.1mm thickness. There is also a fingerprint sensor placed on the rear of the device.

Buy Now: Zopo Speed X

Moto E4 Plus

Just after launching the Moto E4, Motorola came up with the Moto E4 Plus in India. While the Moto E4 is available through offline retailers, the new Moto E4 Plus is exclusive to Flipkart. At Rs 9,999, the Moto E4 Plus comes with decent specifications. It runs on the Android 7.1.1 Nougat out of the box without any customizations to the UI. As seen on the Moto G5 and G5 Plus smartphones, the E4 Plus also comes with One Key Nav feature. The 5.5-inch display comes with HD (1280 x 720 pixels) resolution. It includes 1.3GHz MediaTek MTK6737M processor, 3GB RAM, and 32GB internal storage. There is also a dedicated MicroSD card slot for further expansion of storage. It sports a 13MP rear camera with f/2.0 aperture and LED flash. For selfies, there is a 5MP front camera with f/2.2 aperture and LED flash. The USP of the device is its 5,000mAh battery that also supports fast charging.

Buy Now: Moto E4 Plus

Micromax Canvas 1

Micromax Canvas 1 is the latest smartphone under the Canvas series. It comes in Matte Black and Chrome Black colors and is sold via offline channels across the country. The device sports a 5-inch HD (1280 x 720 pixels) display and is backed by a MediaTek MT6737 quad-core processor. It offers 2GB of RAM and 16GB of onboard storage that can be expandable up to 32GB. Talking about cameras, the Canvas 1 includes an 8MP camera on the rear with LED flash and a 5MP selfie camera on the front. It supports dual SIM dual standby and offers 4G VoLTE connectivity. The device runs on Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box. It is kept powered on by a 2,500mAh battery. It measures 143 x 71 x 8.3 mm and weighs 150 grams. Micromax is also offering 100-day replacement promise on any hardware issue.

Buy Now: Micromax Canvas 1

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Samsung Galaxy Note 8 reveals four different variants while passing through FCC

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The Galaxy Note 8 is been in the news for a long time and now the device has passed through FCC revealing four different variants. After all the renders and the rumors, we got the invitation for the launch event which is scheduled on 23rd of August. The South Korean Giant is all set to launch another big device called the Galaxy S8 Active in the coming days. Nothing much about the device is mentioned in the listing for now but we can expect more specs to be leaked in the coming days.

While the listing revealed four different variants, one being the global variant which will be powered by an Exynos 8895 SoC and two are four U.S with Snapdragon 835 processor and the last one being a display-only variant without any wireless capabilities. This is similar to what we have seen with the flagship model, Galaxy S8 as only two models are made for the U.S, one being the unlocked variant and another one for the carriers. The carrier model will be produced in the companies own country Korea while the other is manufactured in Vietnam.

After the series of Galaxy Note 7 blast, Samsung will be thriving to get its lost reputation and with that, we can expect some killer specifications list for the handset. Well, Samsung also made sure that the launch date for this flagship model of the Note series does not collide with the launch of iPhone 8 and preponed its launch date. From other reports, the Note 8 is expected to be a bigger version of the Galaxy S8 with similar specs sheet.

We can assume the smartphone to come with the dual rear-camera setup, and as well as the Galaxy Note S Pen. Many will be pretty excited to see this device and there are not many days for the launch. Are you excited too? What could be the price range of the device? Comment in the section below and stay tuned to PhoneRadar for more.

Via

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BitTorrent

BitTorrent. The word conjures up image of piracy for many, lost revenue for others, and causes looks of puzzlement in still more. In reality, the BitTorrent protocol is used to download a massive amount of pirated content, but there are legitimate uses as well.

Coming from BitTorrent Inc, there is a lot of expectative riding on the official and eponymous client. Does it live up to these expectations? Well, it's probably best to say that it does what it needs to do, and doesn't really go to much effort to go far beyond the essentials. But first, a word or two of warning.

The installer is one of those deeply irritating affairs that tries to trick you into install extra software – in this case Avast Free Antivirus – and it's a warning of what's to come in some regards. These software bundles are part of ad deals that exist to make money, and while BitTorrent may be free, there are attempts to monetize it. In addition to the Avast deal, there are also ads in the program, and strong hints that you might like to pay to upgrade to BitTorrent Pro in order to remove them and unlock extra features. It's a pain, but it's the price we have to pay for free software these days. 

User experience

For the most part – thankfully – it's possible to ignore the ads in BitTorrent. In use, having spent a little time setting up the options you want to use, it’s the sort of program that will just run in the background and only require very occasional interaction. As magnet links and torrent files can be configured to automatically download to specific folder with set bandwidth restrictions in place, there's little you need to do to actually use the program. 

There are extra tools such as scheduling to allow for different bandwidth limits throughout the day, remote control if you're interested in that sort of thing, and basic controls to ensure you don’t exceed you ISP's monthly quota. There are few extras, and none of the bundled tool go beyond the basics. In short, it does its job, but why settle for second best when there are so many more impressive clients out there?

Latest updates

The latest version of BitTorrent fixes issues with network access and the location of the installation icon. For full details, see the BitTorrent change logs.

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Samsung Galaxy X foldable Smartphone gets Bluetooth Certified

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Galaxy X Smartphone from the South Korean Giant has been in the leaks from quite a time and now and the handset has been spotted on Bluetooth Certification and the device is been certified but he Bluetooth SIG. The reports reveal that the smartphone can be Samsung Galaxy X foldable phone and the listing also reveals the model number as SM-G888N0. Moreover, there are speculations that the model number does not come under any existing series of Smartphone devices.

This could be a new member of the upcoming lineup from Samsung and there are possibilities of more devices to come in this series. There is nothing much known about the device yet and as per the listing the foldable handset comes with Bluetooth v4.2 and we can expect more leaks to come out in the days coming. We need to wait few more days to know the pricing and launch date of this premium device. Are you interested to get one?

Samsung is all set to unveil the new Galaxy S8 and the S8 Plus smartphones next month, and we can’t wait since it is one of the most anticipated devices for this year. While we wait for that happen, the company filed a trademark for ‘Galaxy X‘ moniker just recently, which may indicate that the smartphone is not too far from launch. There is no info about the launch of this particular smartphone, however, it is expected that the company will be launching this smartphone this year itself.

According to the reports, the trademark was filed at KIPRIS which stands for Korea Intellectual Property Rights Information Service, however, there is no other info about the smartphones other than that. We do have a couple of rumors from the past which tells us more about the smartphones. Judging by the rumors, it looks like we will be seeing two new variants of this alleged new smartphone out of which one is called the Galaxy X1 and the other one is called the Galaxy X1+ and will have model numbers SM-X9000 & SM-X9050 respectively.

As far as the specs are concerned, it is suggested that the Galaxy X1 would be coming with a 5″ foldable screen with a support for the 4K resolution. With the help of the fold out mechanism, users will be able to use it as a 7″ tablet as well. and the rumors also suggest that it will have biometric sensors for fingerprint, iris, etc. The only thing which remains to be is if we will be getting s fold out display or a fold-in display. It looks like we see a fold out display, that way users won’t have to unfold every single time if they want to check the notification.

Judging by the reports, this smartphone should take no longer and should be released in the 2nd quarter of this year. And the fact that now we have a trademark in place for this smartphone, makes us want to believe that we should be seeing it in reality anytime by the end of this year. But it will be interesting to see how this will be accepted in the market since it won’t be the most practical smartphone to be used. With that said, let us know what do you think about this particular smartphone. Would you be interested in buying one if they ever decide to bring it to India and if yes, at what price would you be picking it up. Be sure to let us know in the comment section below and stay tuned to PhoneRadar for info on this.

Note – The featured image is just an illustration and not the actual smartphone.

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LastPass

With so many sites, apps and services requiring the use of a password, and our memories being a little limited, there is temptation to either use simple, easy to remember passwords, or keep using the same password over and over again. Both are massive security risks, and LastPass offers itself up as a solution. It's a great alternative to anyone who is concerned about having their web browser store such information for fear of where it may end up.

The idea behind the tool is very simple. Rather than having to manually type your passwords for websites, LastPass can do it for you; it even allows you easily log into multiple accounts. All of your login details are saved in a vault, secured with a master password. The same idea is extended to web forms so you can save yourself from having to manually type your address, credit card details and other common pieces of personal information.

If you don’t mind paying $12 (about £10, AU$15) a year, you can upgrade to LastPass Premium. This enables you to use LastPass with applications as well as websites, and grants you access to 1GB of encrypted online storage. For most people, however, the free version of the tool should be more than enough.

User experience

LastPass is available as a browser extension and an app for all platforms and mobile devices, where it integrates very tightly so it really feels like part of the furniture. When you install it, you can import your saved passwords from your web browser – and then delete them for security – and as you use the web you will be prompted to save any new passwords you enter.

Importantly, passwords can be synchronized between devices so you can transfer data between different computers you use. The web-based interface used to edit, manage, share and delete the data you save is slightly clunky but not enough to be a complete turn-off.

Even if you don't want to use it to store your logins, it's worth installing LastPass to run the Security Challenge so you can find out how many of your passwords are weak, and whether any of your email addresses may have been compromised. This might convince you to take security more seriously and to start using the tool.

Latest updates

The latest version of LastPass for Firefox corrects a bug that prevented Autofill working correctly in some circumstances. The newest version of LastPass for Chrome features a new onboarding process, and fixes a bug that stopped icons appearing correctly. For full details, see the LastPass release notes.

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Microsoft Office 365

[Editor's Note: What immediately follows is a rundown of the latest developments and features Microsoft has added to Office 365 since this review was last updated.]

July 2017

  • With its latest quarterly financial results, Microsoft announced that Office 365 revenue surpassed traditional Office licenses for the first time ever.
  • The Outlook apps for iOS and Android have benefited from a redesigned navigation and conversation experience, and new intelligent search capabilities are promised soon.
  • Three new apps are coming to Office 365 Business Premium: Microsoft Connections (email marketing), Microsoft Listings (managing online listings) and Microsoft Invoicing.
  • Microsoft 365 was revealed, a new offering which combines Office 365 and Windows 10 in a single streamlined package, with additional security and management features.
  • Microsoft launched Workplace Analytics as an add-on for Office 365 enterprise customers, a system which uses behavioural metrics in an attempt to boost employee productivity.

June 2017

  • Microsoft Teams got new classroom experiences, allowing Office 365 for Education customers to benefit from virtual classroom environments with rich chat capabilities.
  • Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection received improved reporting on malicious emails which have been blocked, and a new Safe Links policy was introduced.
  • Microsoft Forms, a web tool for creating surveys, is rolling out for commercial customers, entering public preview for these users (previously it was only available to education customers).
  • Microsoft Stream was introduced for Office 365 commercial customers, an intelligent video service which allows users to share videos and benefit from speech-to-text transcription.
  • Microsoft pushed out iOS and Android apps for Microsoft Planner, allowing Office 365 users to update their plans while they’re on the move.

May 2017

April 2017

  • Microsoft used another tactic to push folks towards Office 365, announcing that those with a standalone version of Office will eventually lose access to OneDrive and Skype for Business.
  • It was confirmed that Windows will have twice-yearly major updates to align with Office 365 ProPlus’ update schedule, with said upgrades coming in September and March.
  • Outlook Customer Manager, which is designed to make it easy for SMBs to track and manage customer relationships, is now rolling out worldwide.
  • The PowerPoint app for iPad was improved with the introduction of Designer, which gives you quick and easy ideas for designing and laying out slides.
  • Microsoft revealed that Wunderlist – which is available as an add-on to Office 365 subscribers using Outlook 2013/2016, and on the web – will be replaced by To-Do.

March 2017

February 2017

  • Microsoft has updated Visio Pro for Office 365 with a database reverse engineering tool that allows you to easily create a visual representation directly from source data.
  • Office 365 benefited from the introduction of a security analytics tool which rates your current security configuration, and makes suggestions on possible improvements.
  • The Office team announced that the OneNote REST API now supports application-level permissions.
  • Excel got new features based on Power Query technology, including support for the percentage data type, along with a new OLE DB connector.
  • Microsoft released Office Training Roadmaps which help businesses keep track of training programmes for the various productivity apps.

January 2017

  • Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection got several new features for tighter email security, namely URL Detonation and Dynamic Delivery.
  • Microsoft graced Office 365 with a new Setup section on the navigation menu, which provides convenient and easy access to all setup-related settings in one location.
  • Office 365 was crowned king of all productivity apps by Okta, outdoing second-place Salesforce.com by a factor of 1.3 to 1 as 2016 came to a close.
  • Microsoft brought in a raft of new courses from LinkedIn Learning to the Office Training Centre, with over 20 offerings on working with Word and PowerPoint.
  • StaffHub, a nifty new app which allows for the management of shifts for deskless workers, became available for Office 365 users with a K1, E1, E3 or E5 plan.

December 2016

  • A new OneDrive for Business admin centre began rolling out to release customers, with general availability promised for early 2017.
  • Microsoft laid out its grand vision of how the firm intends to integrate Teams (its Slack rival) with Microsoft Planner so working across the two is a seamless affair.
  • Microsoft made the Accessibility Checker more easily found across all Office 365 apps, and introduced automated alternate text descriptions in Word and PowerPoint.
  • An official guide on the ‘preferred deployment practices’ for Office 365 ProPlus was released, including advice on preparing the ground, and maintenance afterwards.
  • New statistics emerged from data protection firm Bitglass showing that Office 365 is twice as popular as Google’s G Suite.

November 2016

  • Office 365 users got the benefit of real-time co-authoring in PowerPoint, as well as in the Word app.
  • Office Lens received a couple of new features, including the full integration of Immersive Reader, and a new tool called Frame Guide to help the visually impaired.
  • Outlook Customer Manager arrived in Office 365, enabling businesses to track and manage – and hopefully grow – their customer relationships.
  • Microsoft reintroduced Access, its heavyweight database software, to Office 365 Business and Business Premium customers.
  • Microsoft officially took the wraps off Teams, the firm’s Slack rival that leverages the whole gamut of Office 365’s apps and services.

October 2016

  • Excel 2016 got new features based on Power Query tech, including an improved web connector and enhanced Query Editor, as well as Query Parameters support.
  • Microsoft introduced the ability to create (and collaborate on) Office documents from within a Yammer group.
  • In an earnings report, Microsoft announced Office 365 user numbers: 85 million active commercial users, and 24 million consumers.
  • A batch of new apps were revealed for Office, including an app for invoicing, and tracking expenses, along with one for keeping tabs on your business’ web presence.

September 2016

If you want to see older news and developments pertaining to Office 365, then check out the Archives page at the end of this review.

Otherwise, now move on to Page 2 for our full review and detailed look at what Office 365 offers, and how it can help you become more productive.

Darren Allan contributed to this article

It's been a long time since Office just meant Word, Outlook, Excel and PowerPoint (plus Access - remember that?). In fact, there's a confusingly wide range of tools and services under the Office umbrella.

In the last few years, Office 365 has established itself as the definitive business cloud service bringing together those familiar productivity services, plus an ongoing range of new features.

Apps

There are personal and business versions of Office 365 – home users get the latest version of the Office desktop and mobile applications plus email with Outlook.com and extra cloud storage with OneDrive, along with free Skype minutes every month. If you want to edit documents in Office on your iPad, or using the mobile Office apps on a Windows 10 PC, you need an Office 365 subscription.

Office 365 Personal is for a single user and allows one download of Office. Office 365 Home Premium costs $99.99 per year (£79.99, AU$119.99) for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access and Publisher.

That's good value if you share it with the family; up to five people in the same household can have their own installations of Office on their PC or Mac at the same time (for the Office programs that run on a Mac).

When the next version of Office comes out, you'll get it on the same subscription, and you'll get new features as they become available. If you're at college or university (or you teach at one) you're eligible for Office 365 University on a four-year subscription for $79.99 (£60, AU$99) that you can use on up to two PCs or Macs.

Office 365 for business

Microsoft offers three tiers for businesses with less than 300 seats. Office 365 Business Essentials allows you to use online Office apps only (no desktop applications) plus 1TB of online storage per user and a 50GB Outlook inbox with email, calendar and contacts for £3.10 ($5, AU$5.50) per month per user on an annual contract.

Licence

Office 365 Business offers Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access, Publisher and Lync, with a subscription licence for each user to run them on up to five PCs or Macs at once. You still get the online storage but no email services. Office 365 Business Premium combines Office 365 Business and Business Essentials; all the applications, plus email and storage.

Download Office

Enterprise business users get a full collaboration service with Exchange email, SharePoint document storage, Skype for Business unified communications, OneDrive for Business storage sync and sharing, Yammer enterprise social networking, Delve for tracking what your colleagues are working on, and Groups for ad hoc collaboration.

All that, alongside an increasing list of new services like GigJam (for sharing just parts of documents so you can have the right information available in a meeting) and Planner (a simple planning tool for groups), plus a subscription to the Office 2016 desktop and mobile applications, which includes early access to new features.

Delve

There are several different plans, depending on what mix of services you need. The E5 plan, for example, includes rights management services for encrypting documents and choosing who can see them and how long they're available for, Delve Analytics for tracking how people are spending their time, Power BI for graphical data analysis and business intelligence, and the Office 365 video portal for publishing video inside your company.

In the year since Office 2016 was released, Microsoft has continued to add new features to both the Office 365 service (which you expect in a cloud service) and the Office 2016 applications (which you might not), as well as the mobile versions of the apps for iOS, Android and Windows, new apps like Sway for 'digital storytelling' (that's somewhere between making a mobile app and designing a website), and the Office Online web apps.

That includes new admin features like the new look portal, customising sign-in pages, improved encryption controls, self-service password reset, plus a deal to use Wix to build websites after SharePoint public websites were removed.

New features arriving

The Office Online apps get regular updates, including new features plus integration with other cloud services like Skype and Dropbox – Word and PowerPoint now have the Format Painter for transferring formatting from one section to another, and Excel Online has more number formats, more features in Pivot tables and a high contrast view for accessibility.

Office Online updates

The mobile apps keep adding features like Find and Morph transitions in PowerPoint, or ink annotations in Word, Excel and PowerPoint. You can record audio in OneNote for iOS and on the web; that's better than OneNote on Windows 10 Mobile where audio recordings cut off after a minute.

Because Office 365 is a subscription service, the familiar desktop applications get new features. Word is about to get a spelling and grammar checker that uses machine learning to understand your writing, and a Researcher tool for easier searching for facts and quotes.

PowerPoint has gained several new transitions, a Designer tool that comes up with new looks for your presentation (very much like Sway) and a way to summarise your presentation with Zoom. Excel has new functions and charts and shape recognition when you draw on-screen, plus many more connectors for getting data into Power Query, while Outlook lets you '@ mention' people in email the way you would on Facebook or Twitter.

Office Online

But the changes also include removing some useful features. Changing the Save As options in Office 2016 has been particularly painful, and Office 365 no longer allows you to temporarily stream Office 2016 to a PC that you want to work on, if the Office Online versions don't have the features you need. Desktop Outlook is going to get the Focused Inbox that's so popular in Outlook for iOS and Android – but it will replace the Clutter feature in Exchange Online that files emails you're not likely to be interested in. Clutter worked in every client that you can read Exchange email in, including on older devices (especially Windows Phone 8.1), whereas Focused Inbox will only work in the latest versions of Outlook.

The enterprise Office 365 service is also where Microsoft tries out new features that will appear in the on-premise server products, like the new SharePoint 2016. Exchange Server 2016 is based on the latest version of Exchange Online, which has been available on Office 365 for some time (and you can buy some Exchange Online features to use with your own Exchange Server, like Exchange Online Protection spam and malware filtering).

Service health

SharePoint 2016 catches up with existing Office 365 features like chatting while you're collaborating on documents stored in OneDrive for Business, and will get newer features gradually. Improvements like the new document library experience, and the suggestions in the new iOS SharePoint app of what sites you should look at, are already showing up in SharePoint Online and will appear on premises once they've been tested in the cloud.

In the past, Skype for Business hasn't had the full unified communications features of the on-premise version because PABX integration is harder in the cloud, but Microsoft has been signing up partners like BT to offer voice services for Office 365, as well as creating cloud-only features like Skype for Business broadcast meetings for very large numbers of users (which will soon include real-time live translation and captions).

As you'd expect, you manage Office 365 mainly through the browser (although you can use PowerShell commands if you need to change settings in bulk). The admin portal is getting a major redesign that will soon become the standard way to manage the service.

Admin Centre

The previous interface had a minimalist, low-contrast, 'Metro' style that wasn't particularly efficient, with key tools relegated to a list of links at the side of the page and a dashboard that always showed the setup features even when you'd been running the service for years.

Extras

Now there's an expanding menu on the left with ten sections for managing and monitoring the Office 365 service, each of which expands to let you click straight into the specific area you need. This also makes room for features like Groups that have been added to the service over the years, which show up in their logical place (along with the traditional role-based groups).

As you navigate through the different sections, the tools are also grouped logically, and when you click on the details for a user or a group, all the information pops up in a window, with the most common commands (like resetting a password or deleting the user) at the top.

Dashboard

The home screen that replaces the former dashboard is far more useful – and you can even customise it. There are 'cards' for common tasks, from managing users to downloading the Office clients, and you can rearrange them, delete any you don't need quick access to, and add others.

Edit admin centre

The admin interfaces for Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Skype for Business and Yammer are now much easier to find as well; they have their own section on the menu, which also links to the new Security and Compliance centre, and to Azure Active Directory (even if you don't buy any of the premium AAD services, using Office 365 automatically creates an Azure AD for your business, but in the past it hasn't been obvious how to get to it in order to carry out any management).

You'd expect Azure AD to open as a separate site, because it's a separate service. It's slightly more confusing that the Security and Compliance centre opens in its own browser tab, but has the same design as the Office 365 admin centre.

Security and compliance

This new portal brings together all the security tools for the service, from assigning permissions to admin users, to managing devices, setting up alerts for user and admin behaviour and choosing how spam and malware in email are handled. All that sits alongside the tools for setting retention policies, running ediscovery searches and archiving content, and details of how Microsoft secures the different Office 365 services.

And it's downright annoying that all the admin portals for the Office 365 services still open in different tabs. Plus they still have the white-space-heavy, hard to navigate interfaces that are basic rather than simple, in which it can be hard to find the tools you need quickly (and Yammer has its own design again). We'd like to see them move to the new portal design too; the current mix of interfaces feels fragmented and confusing.

Yammer

It might even make sense for more of the settings to move to themed admin portals the way the security and compliance options have, rather than matching the admin options for the separate on-premise Office servers. Key settings from the Exchange, Skype for Business and SharePoint services are already duplicated in the new admin portal; if they're all you need, you'll never need to use the full service portals at all.

Rooms and equipment

Getting started

Setting up Office 365 is fast – provisioning an E3 or E5 tenant takes only a few minutes – and it's straightforward for a small company, especially if you're migrating from Exchange Online. You can start the wizard to walk you through setup – including connecting to the domain you're using for email addresses, or buying one if you don't already have one – straight from the purchase screen, or you can come back and work through the individual steps later.

You can set up users by connecting to your on-premise Active Directory by importing details (from a CSV file, for example) or by creating users one at a time (that's most suited to a small business); and when you create individual users you can assign licences as you go. If you want to pick and choose who gets which features, you can allocate licences individually for Office 2016, Office Web Apps, SharePoint, Skype for Business, Exchange and any other services.

There are other settings that you can change if you want, but not so many that things get confusing. You can customise the Office 365 theme, set the password expiry policy, choose whether you get new features when they're generally released or try them as soon as they're in preview (and that can apply to all users or just the more advanced users that you pick individually), turn on multi-factor authentication, set the policies for Azure Rights Management if your plan includes this document encryption service, and choose whether users can search Office 365 content using Cortana, or use Office Online to work with files in other cloud storage services like Box.

Groups

There's more work to do if you have email accounts on other services that you need to import data from (there's an import option where you can upload data or even ship drives to Microsoft if that would take too long), and if you're a large business that needs to mix on-premise servers with Office 365 you'll need to plan which users have accounts where and how you sync between your AD and the cloud service. But you don't have to be an expert to get a small business online with Office 365.

Ever since Exchange 2013, the web version of Outlook has had the same features and interface as the Outlook client – it's also what the Exchange Online admin centre is built on, and you can just mark a user as an administrator. This removes the need for an Exchange mailbox to administer Exchange, so you don't have to waste a mail licence and storage quota on a shared mail admin account. You can also give different administrators limited permissions; if someone only needs to use the compliance or discovery tools, they won't get access to mail flow and user settings.

The admin centre is crammed with features, organised into around a dozen categories. Previously complex tasks, like setting up a federation trust to make free/busy times in user calendars visible or setting up shared mailboxes for call centres, are far simpler and you are guided through important steps (like giving users the right permissions to access the shared mailbox).

Exchange admin

Public folders are still available, by popular demand. Like everything else in the new Exchange Online, they're simple to set up with helpful error messages that make clear what you've done wrong and how to fix it.

There's also a helpful balance between enforcing policy and users getting work done. The data loss prevention tools in the Enterprise version of Exchange Online let you set up rules to stop people emailing personal information like credit card numbers (with a smart check that employs the same algorithm used to issue credit card numbers, rather than just looking for any 16 numbers in a row).

But users can also override most of these policy warnings by filling in an explanation and confirming they know the message will be logged. The information can be encrypted to keep it safe until the manager approves the explanation.

The tips reminding users of the policy show up in Outlook clients, and Outlook webmail. But if you send a message from your smartphone that breaks a policy, the rule can forward the message to your manager or mail you to confirm that you meant to break the policy.

Malware report

But while the ultra-minimalist, white-space design is well organised, and will be familiar to Exchange Server admins, it doesn't match the style of the new Office 365 portal. There is also quite a lot of overlap – many tools from the Exchange Online portal also show up as links in the main portal to the auditing, mail flow and information protection tools (spam and malware protection and data leakage policies that block or warn users who are trying to send details like credit card numbers in email). These open the tools in either the Exchange Online or Security and Compliance portals.

Spam report

There are also some settings you might expect to find in Exchange that are in the main Office 365 portal, like choosing whether users can share their calendars with people outside your organisation.

Like Exchange Server, you can use Exchange Online for mobile device management by setting policies that will apply to any smartphone, like forcing the user to turn on encryption and set a PIN, and even setting how often they have to re-enter it.

Office 365 also includes Microsoft's Intune MDM service which adds extra features like detecting whether devices are jailbroken, and letting you mark emails and documents that can only be opened in approved mobile apps, like Office, and only saved in specific locations. You can also selectively wipe devices, removing business data but not personal photos and information.

MDM

The Exchange tools for managing mobile device access are still in the Exchange Online admin portal, which is where admins who are used to Exchange Server will expect to find them. The Intune MDM features are in the Security and Compliance centre – and yet again, that opens a new browser tab, because it has its own interface.

OAW for device admin

This is the kind of duplication we expect Microsoft to clean up as it continues to improve the Office 365 admin UI, and the disparate interfaces shouldn't distract from the fact that you're getting a powerful mail system with all the options you need. And if you don't need to delve into those options, you can be up and running quickly with a rock solid mail system. Exchange Online remains one of the crown jewels of Office 365.

If you've used Office 365 before, you'll remember the admin portal for the unified communications service formerly known as Lync was distinctly minimal, with very few settings you could change. As Skype for Business gains more features, there are correspondingly more options and controls, but it's a far cry from the complexity of the on-premise version; this is one of the services where being in the cloud makes unified communications dramatically simpler.

Now that Skype for Business can connect to Skype, you can control that integration, as well as allowing or blocking calls and chats with Skype for Business users outside your company, and choosing whether the Skype Broadcast service is available for creating large public online meetings. Again, the controls for external connections are duplicated in the main Office 365 admin portal – for many businesses, they're the only settings you might want to change, so you might never need the full admin centre.

Manage skype

You can also set the defaults for notifications and privacy mode and add your own boilerplate to meeting invitations. You can include your company logo, links to support, any legal terms and conditions that apply to meetings, or a few lines of text you wish to be included in all invitations.

Skype for business custom

You can use Skype for Business for dial-in conferencing, with or without toll-free numbers, so your users can phone in rather than using the Skype for Business client – that's included in the E5 Office 365 plan, or you can buy it as an add-on. You can also use PSTN Calling to call standard phone numbers and receive calls from anyone, not just other Skype for Business users (again, that's included in some plans but not in others – confusingly, there's a version of the E5 plan that has it, and another that doesn't).

Skype IM

You can even use Skype for Business as your PBX – as well as making and receiving calls, you get PBX features like transferring calls, having several phones ring when a call arrives, putting your phone on 'do not disturb' except for a few key contacts, playing hold music and handling voicemail. Again, you need the right licences.

The admin centre also includes a handy list of tools for troubleshooting, and a very minimal set of reports.

Lync Online was already an impressive HD videoconferencing system with excellent tools for online meetings. The Skype integration makes it a great choice for letting your customers and partners reach you without the cost of a phone call, and if you add the dial-in conferencing, PSTN calling and PBX tools, it's close to being a cloud service that offers a full unified communications system. But buying all those options as separate add-ons, some from third-party communications providers, does make everything more complicated than we'd like.

For a while, SharePoint Online was the red-headed stepchild of Office 365. The name didn't even appear in the list of apps – users just saw links to OneDrive and Sites – and the ribbon-based interface felt dated and out of step with the rest of Office 365.

But cloud competition like Box and Dropbox hasn't killed off SharePoint, and even though the personal cloud storage of OneDrive for Business is still part of Office 365, Microsoft has just given SharePoint itself a major refresh that updates the key features for document sharing and collaboration, and adds far better mobile support.

SharePoint Online also connects to the new services Microsoft has been adding to Office 365 like Groups and Planner, making the collaboration options feel more coherent.

SharePoint new

Sites for personal and shared team use and document libraries are still at the heart of SharePoint – document collections can now be as large as 25TB, and there's a new document library experience that looks much more like OneDrive, or a blog.

Team Site

Team sites automatically show popular documents and details of who in the team has been working on what, and there are new tools for creating pages on the site as if you were writing and publishing a blog – so you don't need to create HTML or use a separate publishing tool any more. Just pick web parts – images, events, links, videos, Yammer feeds – and drag them into place.

SharePoint Team Sites

Some Office 365 plans include the SharePoint Video service, for uploading and streaming videos. This is going to be replaced by the Azure Streams video service, though not until the new service has all the same features as the existing one.

Office video formats

All the existing options for customising SharePoint are still available. You can include language translation services for sites and documents, and for structured tasks you can add workflows designed in Visual Studio and have them hosted on Azure, or you can create a Flow or a PowerApp on Azure that lets you configure workflows that connect other services – like Salesforce or Dynamics – to SharePoint.

If you need the same kind of full-trust managed .NET code that lets you customise SharePoint on your own server, you can put that on Azure. As a multi-tenant cloud service, SharePoint Online has to protect users from each other's potentially performance-hogging code, so this is a sensible approach. But many of the features you'd once have built that way are available as apps written in HTML and CSS that run on SharePoint: you can get blogging tools, mapping tools, address checking tools and more – and admins can choose which apps are available in the SharePoint Store and who is allowed to buy more.

Plus SharePoint 2016 adds a new extension framework based on common JavaScript frameworks like React and Angular, where the code runs on the client device, not on the server. That's still in development, but it brings SharePoint up to date with the latest web development technologies.

SharePoint Home

SharePoint also has a new way of controlling access. Admins can still grant and block access to SharePoint sites, but team sites work with the new, self-service Groups feature in Office 365. Anyone can create a group of colleagues and the group automatically gets a team site with a document library, a shared calendar and inbox, a Skype for Business chat room that you can also get as email, along with a OneNote notebook, an always-on Skype conversation you can drop in and out of, and the new Planner task management tool.

It works the other way round, as well; make a team site or add colleagues to Planner and you create a group.

Planner is like a simple version of Trello – you create a card for each task, assign it to someone and save it into different 'buckets' that you use to organise your plan. It doesn't have much in the way of notifications yet, but Microsoft is adding features quickly.

Groups 2

Groups also have the kind of connectors you might have seen in Slack. You can connect a Twitter feed or a variety of services like GitHub, Trello and ZenDesk to a group to get alerts – so you could follow the hashtag for the product your team works on, or see customer support issues in the group.

You can search across all the sites you have access to and when you find a useful document, you can follow it as if it was a friend on Facebook. Results include automatic recommendations based on what the people you're connected to are working on, and your previous behaviour. That's based on the Delve feature, which analyses what documents your colleagues are working on that are relevant to you – you can see that in the Delve service but the information will now show up in SharePoint too.

Search is smart: search for 'marketing deck' and results will include PowerPoint presentations (that don't have the word 'deck' anywhere in the contents), with particularly relevant slides highlighted in the results.

The SharePoint newsfeed is still available if you want to use that to keep track of what's going on. This looks very much like Facebook or Twitter – you can follow people, sites, projects, hashtags, documents and events, and you'll see in the activity stream when someone does something new or makes a change (you can filter the stream to make it more manageable). You can also preview documents and videos straight from the Newsfeed, or turn any item into an action that becomes part of your task list.

Customise SharePoint portal

You use Twitter-style @ names to mention people and you can see when other people have mentioned you (you get an email as well as seeing it on the Newsfeed, so you don't have to update feverishly to stay on top of work). Also, you can post your own updates to everyone or just the team you're working with.

Customise SharePoint portal 2

But now that the Yammer social network service is available to all Office 365 customers, you can switch to using that instead. It's a much more powerful tool for collaboration that's getting regular updates – and again, it's going to integrate with Groups soon, so a team can choose to collaborate through Yammer or the other Groups tools.

Yammer design

You can view and edit documents in the Office Online web apps, and you can preview file types you can't edit, like Visio. Sharing documents – with colleagues or up to 10,000 external partners and customers who don't need to have SharePoint themselves – is also much simpler. Click on the sharing icon and type in names or email addresses, choose whether they can view or edit – or copy an obfuscated URL you can send in an instant message or put in a blog post.

Shared documents are marked by an icon you can click to see who you're sharing with (and you can stop sharing a document when you're done collaborating). Many Office 365 plans include Azure Rights Management Services, so you can control not just who can see a document but what they can do with it, turning off the printing and copying functions for confidential information.

SharePoint started out as a way to share document libraries and create workflows. It's now a flexible collaboration tool for ad hoc groups as well as a formal, centralised information store, with mobile apps as well as simple web publishing.

The SharePoint Online admin centre reflects that. There's a long list of settings that lets you control apps, connections, rights management, collaboration and whether users get new features and the new OneDrive for Business interface.

For many smaller businesses, that's all you need and you can hide the other controls. But if you need them, there's a full set of configuration options for everything from InfoPath to the taxonomy for how documents are indexed, in an interface that SharePoint Server administrators will find familiar (although it's going to confuse anyone starting with the new Office 365 admin centre).

OneDrive and OneDrive for Business

Microsoft uses the same name for its business and consumer cloud storage services: OneDrive and OneDrive for Business are now more similar than they used to be – in particular they use the same sync client, which fixes a lot of problems with OneDrive for Business – but they're still different services.

OneDrive is Microsoft's consumer cloud storage service, which gives users 5GB of free storage with the option to purchase 50GB for $1.99 a month (£1.99, AU$2), plus Office Web Apps. If you buy Office 365 Home, Personal, or University, you get 1TB of OneDrive space.

OneDrive for Business is the cloud storage service that's part of the business Office 365 plans (and also available as part of on-premise SharePoint Server), with either 1TB or 5TB of storage per user, depending on which plan you choose.

Office 365 tenants also get SharePoint Online, which includes 10GB of secure cloud storage with an extra 500MB per user, and the option of paying for up to 25TB of storage in total. You can choose how the SharePoint space storage is allocated between users and control how they use it, like limiting who they can share documents with or forcing them to encrypt confidential documents using rights management software.

OneDrive for Business, which is confusingly labelled OneDrive in the Office 365 portal to fit on the ribbon, lets users store their own working documents privately. If you're familiar with SharePoint, you can think of it as like the storage in My Site – and documents can still have workflows or be checked in and out.

OneDrive in office 2016

Users can also share documents with specific people – inside or outside the company – by clicking the three dots next to the file name and choosing Share, or from the properties and preview pane for the file. This interface has been updated a couple of times but it's still easy to share documents and see who has access.

Users can choose whether each person they invite can edit or just view the document and whether or not they need to sign in (it's possible to choose whether to enforce sign in globally). It's very clear if a document is shared and with whom, and you can stop sharing a document at any point. OneDrive for Business storage is part of SharePoint and you can apply policies to it in the same way.

OneDrive share

If you want to share a document in OneDrive for Business with everyone (including those to whom you give the URL of your OneDrive for Business), you can move it into the Shared with Everyone folder by default.

If you want to make it available only to a specific group of people, you can put a document into the library for a Team Site instead. That uses the SharePoint tenant storage and you can get those files onto a PC by opening them from SharePoint Online, opening the document library in Explorer (from the ribbon on the SharePoint site) or syncing the document library as a list in Outlook. Team mailboxes also save information into the SharePoint library.

Although the range of storage and sharing options in Office 365 sound confusing, in practice they make a lot of sense. Users get the option to stick to SharePoint shared document libraries or use something that looks like popular free cloud storage services – but which gives you control and security.

Sharing documents is simple and users can easily collaborate (they can even edit the same document simultaneously, in the Office desktop applications or the Office Web Apps) but again, you have tools to control this.

When it first came out, Office 2016 had excellent integration with OneDrive, on both Mac and Windows, letting you browse your online folders and see the folders you'd used recently right on the Backstage menu. A recent update stripped that out on Office 2016 for Windows, replacing it with a very slow dialog that doesn't show any recent folders at all – and doesn't even show you what the file name will be. It's a definite step backwards.

All apps

What else is in Office 365?

Depending on which Office 365 plan you choose, you'll get a range of new apps and services. All the plans include Sway, a new authoring tool that uses machine learning to do a lot of the layout work for you, creating responsive layouts that work on smartphones as well as desktop web browsers.

Business plans include the Planner service, as well as GigJam, a collaboration service that lets you share specific pages inside a document – you can just cross out pages and paragraphs you don't want colleagues to see. It's an interesting idea that needs a lot more work to be really useful.

Delve Analytics

The E5 plan includes the Power BI cloud service that lets you visualise information in charts and dashboards, and an extra tool in Delve called Analytics that analyses your working habits to tell you how much time you spend in meetings and email compared to your colleagues, to help you make the most of your time.

There are also related Office services you can add to Office 365, like Project Online, which is a full-fledged portfolio project management system.

Office recent changes

Expect Microsoft to keep adding new services to Office 365 – like the ones it plans to create from LinkedIn.

Office 365 is hands-down the best way to buy Office, whether you're a consumer user wanting the Office desktop apps with all the latest features, or a business that needs email and collaboration tools without the hassle of running your own servers. Yes, you pay a monthly fee, but you keep getting new features as well as useful cloud services.

We liked

The new Office 365 admin centre is a real improvement, making it easy to find features that used to be tucked away inside specific services

Exchange Online is one of the best business email systems around, and no-one knows how to run it better than Microsoft. Skype for Business has gone from VoIP meetings in the cloud to something that can be a full unified communications service – if you're prepared to pay for all the conferencing and telephony services you need to make it work. And SharePoint is getting a much needed refresh, plus the formerly infuriating OneDrive for Business is now both usable and reliable, and Groups give teams a simple way of working together on projects.

We disliked

Overall, the Office 365 admin interface remains disparate and disjointed; Microsoft needs to do more work here. In part, that's due to the overlapping tools, from the formal systems that replicate the server options larger businesses want – especially if they're migrating to the cloud – to the simpler, ad hoc tools based on Groups that are more approachable but also sometimes lack features. Whatever you need, you can probably do it with Office 365 – if you can find out where and how.

If you want the latest features and improvements, you need to opt-in to try previews – but that can mean losing useful options as well, like the confusing changes that make the Save As dialog slow and unwieldy in Office 2016. If you don't get features in preview, it can still take a long time for them to reach all the Office 365 tenants once they're supposed to be available.

Final verdict

Office 365 is a reliable service that integrates email, document sharing and conferencing almost seamlessly with the latest desktop versions of the Office software – which now get regular updates and extra features – and is evolving new cloud tools and services like Sway and Planner.

It's simple enough for small businesses and also has powerful options for larger companies, who will find that the savings from putting commodity IT in the cloud, while still being able to integrate with on-premise servers through Active Directory and hybrid Exchange deployments, make the combined subscriptions for server and desktop products very attractive.

You do need to pick the right plan though – there's a confusing number of them, all with slightly different features. This means you don't have to pay for services you don't need, but it also makes it hard to point at Office 365 and know exactly what you'll get.

Microsoft has officially released Office 2016 for Windows and it is available for consumer customers (Office 365 Home and Personal) immediately for download. Mac users have already been able to download Office 2016 for a few weeks already.

Office 365 will likely keep its name and could be joined by Windows 365 as Microsoft will apparently add a subscription option to Windows 10, and it has trademarked that name. Amongst the flurry of features added to Office 365 in recent times, the ones worth highlighting are:

Microsoft acquired Sunrise, a popular calendaring app for touch devices, which is likely to be incorporated into Office 365. Calendaring has been one of the areas where Microsoft hasn't devoted as much resources as many would have expected especially with the rise of mobility.

Microsoft also bought Acompli (which it almost immediately turned to Outlook), LiveLoop for to prep ip PowerPoint and 6Wunderkinder for its popular to-do-list application.

The company also announced that it was giving away 100GB of free storage for a year to existing Dropbox users to lure them away from the popular cloud storage provider – which incidentally is a close Microsoft ally.

That bonus is on top of a 100GB giveaway of OneDrive storage for two years if you subscribe to its Bing Rewards scheme. Your files will be read only after the subscription ends unless you buy a top-up and if you want to get a cheap one, Ebay seems to be the place to go with plenty of deals available for Microsoft Office 365 Personal available for less than £40.

Okay, let's move on to the most recent developments over the past couple of months. Microsoft recently announced that it has updated Office 365 for Exchange Online, so that users will no longer have their emails automatically deleted after a period of 30 days. Previously, deleted items were shifted into the Deleted folder before disappearing from there after 30 days, but the new update allows the system admin to change this period to a different length, or simply to set all emails to be kept indefinitely.

Also on the email front, Microsoft has just updated Office 365 to allow users to send email attachments which are far, far bigger than was previously possible. In fact, attachments can now be six times as large, with the new size limit being 150MB (whereas Office 365 users were limited to 25MB before – that said, note that the 25MB limit will remain in place unless the administrator actually changes things).

Video content is an arena Redmond is moving to cover with its subscription Office suite, as well, with the creation of the Office 365 Video portal that allows businesses to distribute videos internally. This is a free additional service which is currently in the process of rolling out globally for Office 365 enterprise users, in order to provide a fully integrated solution for video sharing within an organisation with security in mind. Office 365 Video employs an HTML5 player so it can work across all devices from mobiles to desktop computers, although Microsoft is also producing an app for iPhone users.

Furthermore, Redmond has bolstered Office 365 with the addition of mobile device management (MDM) again free of charge, at least for those on commercial plans. System admins will be able to use these features to manage access to data over a range of devices and platforms, from smartphones upwards and on Windows Phone, Android and iOS.

This will put in place measures such as the detection of jailbroken devices, and will allow for security policies to be set up to ensure that certain business emails or documents can only be accessed on approved devices. A selective wipe feature will strip corporate data off a device running Office 365, without touching any personal data on said piece of hardware.

Another major move on the security front which has only just happened is Microsoft and Samsung's announcement of an agreement, following settling their legal arguments over Android, whereby a version of the Office 365 suite will come to Samsung's Knox. In other words, Excel, Word, PowerPoint, OneNote and OneDrive for Business will be included wrapped up in the Knox container.

Redmond has also just changed things with Office 365 so that documents can now be exported in the Open Document Format (ODF), to bring the suite in line with UK government guidelines on document sharing.

OneDrive

Recent news

The following is a list of updates to the Office 365 suite going back from August to the beginning of 2016:

August 2016

  • Microsoft is going to more tightly integrate Office 365 and Windows 10 by implementing an 'Office Hub'that offers easy access to your documents from within Windows.
  • Office 365 saw the introduction of a Service Assurance Dashboard which provides a range of details on privacy, security and compliance controls, including third-party auditing.
  • Microsoft said that the rollout of the overhaul of Outlook.com, which brings fresh Office 365 features to users of the webmail service, has been further delayed.
  • Office 365 Education introduced a raft of new features including Microsoft Classroom, School Data Sync, Microsoft Forms, and Learning Tools.
  • Microsoft brought some new ink effects to OneNote, and also the ability for the app not just to convert a handwritten equation to text, but also to teach you how to solve it.
  • Two new Visio apps popped up: Visio Online Preview which allows users to view and share Visio diagrams with only a browser, and the Visio for iPad app.
  • Various accessibility updates were applied across Office 365, including tweaks to make Narrator (the screen reader) a better experience in Word, Outlook and SharePoint.

July 2016

  • Microsoft highlighted two major new features coming to Word – Editor and Researcher, which help with proofing/editing, and citing sources respectively.
  • A new service arrived in the form of Microsoft Bookings, which gives Office 365 business users a hub web page that allows customers to schedule appointments.
  • Microsoft announced that Office 365 now has 23.1 million subscribers.
  • The free preview version of Microsoft Stream was launched, a YouTube-style service for businesses which will eventually become the de facto video experience in Office 365.
  • The Secure Productive Enterprise offering was revealed, bundling Office 365, Windows 10 Enterprise (in its new E3/E5 cloud-based form) and Enterprise Mobility + Security suite.
  • Redmond released a free videoconferencing tool for SMBs, noting that Office 365 business subscribers get similar facilities on a much grander scale via Skype for Business.
  • Microsoft revealed that later in 2016, Office 365 users will get a preview of an automatic live translation caption service for Skype Meeting Broadcast supporting 40 languages.

June 2016

  • Microsoft Planner was rolled out to Office 365 users worldwide, an app which lets you tackle project management in a fresh and user-friendly fashion.
  • Microsoft made a number of tweaks to Sway, its 'digital storytelling' app, including upping content limits so you can use more photos, videos and so forth in your Sways.
  • Outlook received some new features to help users better manage their travel plans and track the status of package deliveries.
  • Excel got a new set of Power Query features designed to make working with and getting the most out of your data easier.
  • A new Office 365 admin app was pushed out with a more slickly designed interface that makes important information easy to spot at a glance.
  • A new SharePoint mobile app was also launched for iOS offering quick and easy access to your company's portals, sites and resources when you're on the go.
  • The preview version of GigJam – a collaboration app inbound for Office 365 that allows users to easily share all manner of content – was made available to all comers.
  • Office 365 was struck by a major ransomware attack that exposed some 57% of its 18.2 million subscribers to phishing attempts.

May 2016

  • Office 365 Business was enhanced to allow co-editors to chat in real-time when collaborating on documents stored in OneDrive for Business or SharePoint Online.
  • Accessibility improvements, including a new high contrast theme, were applied to Office 365 to make it easier for the visually impaired to work with the apps.
  • Microsoft tweaked security for Office 365, with Exchange Online Protection getting safety tips that give warnings about suspicious emails.

April 2016

  • Office 365 received a front-end facelift with a new welcome page designed to be more helpful and intuitive.
  • Redmond bolstered the capabilities of Microsoft Graph, meaning that going forward developers can build better and smarter apps powered by data drawn from Office 365.

March 2016

  • A new admin centre arrived on Office 365 boasting powerful search functionality and enabling easy access to in-depth reports.
  • Office 365 Connectors were introduced, allowing apps and services to be hooked up to Office 365 Groups, so notifications from said apps automatically get sent to the Groups shared inbox.
  • Office 365 became the only non-Apple accessory offered to those purchasing iPads online.
  • Google expanded its Identity Platform, which is made up of a number of solutions including Google Sign-In, to cover Office 365.
  • And as March ended, we discovered that according to one study, Office 365 is the king of all business web apps.

February 2016

  • A ton of improvements were applied to Excel including new functions to make building common calculations an easier process, and deeper integration with Power BI.
  • Outlook also got some attention with a new system that lets users easily archive messages, and a new Groups section was added to the ribbon.
  • We saw a leaked pilot web page that indicated Redmond's incoming premium email service, Outlook.com Premium, will be free for Office 365 users.

January 2016

  • Microsoft extended its Office Insider preview program, which allows the curious to test early builds, to include Mac users.
  • Redmond introduced new inking features for the Office for iPad apps, allowing for scribbling on documents with a stylus or your finger.

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