Friday, July 1, 2022

Team RWBY is Making Its Way to the Realm in a New Paladins Patch

Paladins is bringing another exciting crossover as Salem and her army of Grimm have made their way into the Realm, determined to wreak havoc wherever they go. But the Champions of the Realm will have help against this fearsome foe as Team RWBY, along with everyone’s favorite uncle Qrow, have also arrived to stop her! […]
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    The Engadget guide to the best midrange smartphones

    A great smartphone doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Years of commoditization have brought features once exclusive to high-end devices – including big batteries, multi-camera arrays and high refresh rate displays – down to their more affordable siblings. As one of Engadget’s resident mobile geeks, I’ve reviewed dozens of midrange devices. So I’m here to help you figure out what features to prioritize when trying to find a phone for less than $600.What is a midrange phone, anyway?While the term shows up frequently in articles and videos, there isn’t an agreed-upon definition for “midrange” beyond a phone that isn’t a flagship or an entry-level option. For this guide, our recommendations cost between $400 and $600. Any less and you should expect significant compromises. If your budget is higher, though, you should consider flagships like the iPhone 13 and Galaxy S22.What factors should you consider when buying a midrange smartphone?Buying a new device can be intimidating, but a few questions can help guide you through the process. First: what platform do you want to use? If the answer is iOS, that narrows your options down to exactly one phone. (Thankfully, it’s great.) And if you’re an Android fan, there’s no shortage of compelling options. Both platforms have their strengths, so you shouldn’t rule either out.Obviously, also consider how much you’re comfortable spending. Even spending $100 more can get you a dramatically better product. And manufacturers tend to support their more expensive devices for longer. It’s definitely worth buying something toward the top limit of what you can afford.Having an idea of your priorities will help inform your budget. Do you want a long-lasting battery? Do you value speedy performance above all else? Or would you like the best possible cameras? While they continue to improve every year, midrange phones still involve some compromises, and knowing what’s important to you will make choosing one easier.Lastly, pay attention to wireless bands and network compatibility. If you don’t want to worry about that, your best bet is to buy directly from your carrier. To make things easier, all the phones we recommend are compatible with every major US wireless provider and can be purchased unlocked. What won’t you get from a midrange smartphone?Every year, the line between midrange and flagship phones gets blurrier as more upmarket features trickle down. When we first published this guide in 2020, it was difficult to find $500 devices with waterproofing or 5G. Now, the biggest thing you might miss out on is wireless charging. Just remember to budget for a power adapter too – many companies have stopped including them. Performance has improved in recent years, but can still be hit or miss as most midrange phones use slower processors that can struggle with multitasking. Thankfully, their cameras have improved dramatically, and you can typically expect at least a dual-lens system on most handsets below $600.Engadget picksThe best midrange Android phone: Pixel 5a with 5GTerrence O'Brien / EngadgetIt may look dull, but there’s a lot to like about Google’s $450 Pixel 5a. For one, it features the best cameras at this price. It may not have as many lenses as some of the other options on this list, but thanks to Google’s expertise in computational photography, the 5a delivers pictures that are on par with phones that cost hundreds more.The Pixel 5a has a few other things going for it. Thanks to its large 4,680mAh battery and efficient chipset, you won’t have to worry about running out of juice. In fact, Engadget managing editor Terrence O’Brien found he could easily get a full day of use. The 5a also supports 5G and is certified IP67 for water and dust-proofing. Plus, as a Pixel phone, the 5a will receive the latest updates and security fixes from Google weeks and months before other Android phones.Of course, no $450 phone is perfect. The Pixel 5a has an aging Snapdragon 765G chipset, and you can find plenty of midrange phones with more responsive displays.One thing to note: The Pixel 6a is right around the corner and will go on sale on July 28th for $449. I suggest waiting until Engadget gets a review unit so you have details on things like battery life and performance before you make a decision.Buy Pixel 5a 5G at Amazon - $450The best (and only) iPhone under $600: iPhone SECherlynn Low / EngadgetIf you can get past its dated design and small 5.4-inch display, the iPhone SE is the fastest phone you can buy for less than $600. No other device on this list has a processor that comes close to the SE’s A15 Bionic. What’s more, you can expect Apple to support the 2022 model for years to come. The company is only just ending support for the first-generation SE after six years. The company hasn’t said how long it intends to furnish the latest SE with new software, but it’s likely to support the device for a similar length of time.For all its strengths, the iPhone SE is held back by a dated display. Not only is the SE’s screen small and slow, but it also uses an IPS panel instead of an OLED, meaning it can’t deliver deep blacks. Additionally, that screen is surrounded by some of the largest bezels you’ll find on a modern phone. That’s not surprising. The SE uses the design of the iPhone 6, which will be a decade old in two years. And if the SE looks dated now, it will only feel more tired in a few years.Shop iPhone SE at AppleThe midrange phone with the best screen: Samsung Galaxy A53 5GIgor Bonifacic / EngadgetFor the best possible display at this price, look no further than Samsung’s $450 Galaxy A53 5G. It features a 6.5-inch Super AMOLED display that is ideal for watching TV shows and movies. Plus the 120Hz panel is the fastest on this list. Other standout features include a 5,000mAh battery and versatile camera system. The A53’s three cameras may not deliver photos with the same detail and natural colors as the Pixel 5a, but it can capture bigger scenes with its two wide-angle lenses.Like the other Android phones on this list, the A53 isn’t the fastest performer. At best, Samsung’s Exynos 1280 is a lateral move from the Snapdragon 750G found in the Galaxy A52 5G. And though the A53 is $50 cheaper than its predecessor, it no longer comes with a power adapter and headphone jack, so the difference may not end up being much.Buy Galaxy A53 5G at Samsung - $450An ultra-budget 5G option: OnePlus Nord N200 5GBrian Oh / EngadgetIf you only have around $200 to spend on your next phone, you could do a lot worse than the OnePlus Nord N200 To start, it features a big 5,000mAh battery that will easily last you a full day. The N200 also has a 90Hz display and 5G connectivity, which are tricky to find at this price. Best of all, it doesn’t look like a budget product.But the N200 is also a good illustration of why you should spend more if you can. I the slowest device on this list, due to its Snapdragon 480 chipset and paltry 4GB of RAM. Its triple main camera system is serviceable during the day but struggles in low light and doesn’t offer much versatility beyond a disappointing macro lens. OnePlus also doesn’t plan to update the phone beyond the soon-to-be-outdated Android 12. In short, the N200 is unlikely to last you as long as any of the other recommendations on this list.Buy OnePlus Nord N200 at Amazon - $240Chris Velazco contributed to this report.

    Plans for an in-person MWC continue as Sony, Nokia and Ericsson out bow

    After scuttling one massive international trade show last year, the GSMA is sticking to plans for an in-person Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this June — just without a few marquee names. A handful of companies, including Oracle, smartphone maker Sony, and networking firms Nokia and Ericsson, have all confirmed that they will not be attending the show in the flesh.  This isn’t the first time the GSMA has put on an in-person event during the pandemic — it held a Mobile World Congress in Shanghai in late February, with a spate of virtual panels and addresses supplementing the on-the-ground experience. According to a statement provided to Bloomberg, around 17,000 people attended the Shanghai event and no positive COVID diagnoses have been reported so far, though it’s worth noting that many of the attendees didn’t have to travel internationally to attend.  To help mitigate risk, the show organizer is planning a similar online component to accommodate remote attendees this summer, and plans to host a significantly smaller number of people on-site in Barcelona: think 50,000, down from the more than 100,000 who typically attend. Compounding the difficulties of running an in-person trade show are the strict travel restrictions still in effect around the world. The website for the US Embassy in Spain and Andorra tells would-be attendees that entry into the country is not allowed unless they meet “very specific requirements or have already obtained special permission from the Government of Spain.” And at time of publication, residents of the UK, Brazil, and South Africa are barred from entering Spain until March 30th. That ban had already been extended, and may well be extended again — at the time, Spanish officials expressed concern over more virulent COVID strains finding a foothold in the country. (Considering the possibility that MWC could be a superspreader event, Engadget will not be attending the show.) Despite the GSMA’s insistence that a safe, in-person show is possible, some companies that have historically used Mobile World Congress as a launchpad for new products have spent the last year figuring out how to go it alone. Samsung, for instance, staged multiple virtual launch events for its high-profile smartphones in 2020 and plans to host another next week. Huawei ferried reporters to a warehouse in London in luxury cars, where they tested the then-new Mate 40 Pro without ever leaving their vehicles. Factor in a bevy of announcements from MWC mainstays like Oppo and ZTE at the earlier Shanghai event, and we’re left with one big question: even if Mobile World Congress isn’t ultimately canceled this year, will there even be any major announcements to look forward to?

    iPhone 12 mini 'production cut' hints demand was less than hoped

    Apple is slashing production of the iPhone 12 mini through the first six months of the year, according to Nikkei. The company will reportedly produce at least 70 percent fewer units than it initially planned. That will account for most of a 20 percent drop in overall planned iPhone 12 production until June. Apple is even said to have told some suppliers to temporarily stop making specific parts for the iPhone 12 mini. Some other components have been reapportioned for the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max. Even with the cuts, Apple is still on track to make more iPhones this year than it did in 2020. Nikkei suggests the company plans to manufacture 75 million units in the first six months and 230 million handsets in total, representing an overall increase of 11.6 percent. This is reportedly to help Apple get ahead of possible parts shortages as well as possible economic recovery (and more people perhaps having enough spare cash to buy a new phone). The report backs up previous suggestions that the 5.4-inch iPhone 12 mini isn't selling all that well. Although the iPhone 11 is a year older than the 2020 lineup, it offers superior battery life to the iPhone 12 mini and it costs $100 less. That, aligned with the fact many people are opting for phones with larger screens, could be one reason why the iPhone 12 mini seemingly isn't selling as much as Apple would have hoped.

    Apple releases 14 iOS.4.1 and 11 macOS.2.3 to handle a WebKit vulnerability

    Apple has released a set of updates it recommends all iPhone, iPad and Mac users download as soon as possible. No, iOS 14.5 and Big Sur 11.3 aren’t out yet. Instead, what we have are iOS 14.4.1 and macOS 11.2.3.  When you download them on your devices, all you’ll get is a terse explanation from Apple saying that they’re “important.” However, the support pages spotted by 9to5Mac provide more information. Both updates address a memory corruption issue within WebKit, the engine that powers Apple’s Safari browser. The vulnerability, which was discovered by security researchers from Google and Microsoft, may have allowed bad actors to execute code on your devices using “maliciously crafted” web content. On iOS, you can manually download an update to your iPhone or iPad by opening the Settings app, and then tapping “General” followed by “Software Update.” Meanwhile, on macOS, open the System Preferences menu and click on “Software Update.”

    Dish is buying Republic Wireless and its own 200,000 subscribers

    Dish plans to add yet another mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) to its wireless business. On Monday, the company announced that it has an agreement in place to buy Republic Wireless. With the deal, which should close before the end of first half of the year, Dish will add approximately 200,000 customers to its wireless subscriber base. The company claims Republic Wireless customers won’t see “any immediate” changes to their plans. After spending nearly a decade of trying to break into the wireless market, Dish has made a lot of recent progress. It all started July when the company paid $1.4 billion to buy Boost Mobile from T-Mobile and Sprint. The two carriers agreed to divest themselves of the pre-prepaid brand to get regulatory approval for their $26 billion merger. One month later, Dish bought Ting Mobile from Tucows. It’s too early to tell if Dish will successfully transform itself into a competitive national carrier, but it’s certainly trying to make a go of it.

    Google tests a beefed-up YouTube Android app for Chromecast

    Google might be working on a new version of YouTube for Android that significantly improves the Chromecast experience, 9to5Google has reported. Currently, casting to a Chromecast-connected TV using the YouTube app is a minimalistic experience, with your TV showing only basic details like the channel name, view count, date and time. With the new pseudo-app, however, casting YouTube will reportedly be more akin to using Android TV.  The new player appeared to some Android YouTube Reddit users, with a remote control appearing in the app. That launches a player on your Chromecast-powered TV that lets you change settings like resolution, captions and subtitles, and even use granular controls like "stats for nerds," according to 9to5Google.  When a video concludes, instead of just seeing the usual "ready to watch" image, you'll see a home screen with "what to watch next" suggestions, much like Android TV. Reddit user garethonreddit captured a screen indicating that the app appears to be an HTML5-powered web experience. Another user noted that the new interface seems to come with more advertisements, however. If the new app rolls out widely, the richer on-screen YouTube experience would certainly give Chromecast owners more value for their money — though many wouldn't trade that for more ads. It would be nice to see similar improvements in other Chromecast-enabled apps that deliver a more Android TV-like experience, like you get from Google's latest Chromecast devices. 

    The OnePlus 9 series shall debut with Hasselblad-tuned cameras on March 23rd

    OnePlus will unveil its latest flagship smartphones — the OnePlus 9 5G series — during a streaming launch event at 9 AM Eastern on March 23rd. And when those phones make their debut, they'll pack cameras tuned by 180-year-old Swedish camera maker Hasselblad. “With OnePlus’ top-of-the-line hardware and computational photography and Hasselblad’s rich aesthetic knowledge in traditional photography, I am confident that the OnePlus 9 Series will be a major leap forward in our ability to deliver a premium, flagship camera," said OnePlus CEO Pete Lau in a press release. Word of the partnership won't come as much surprise to the company's fans: leaked images of an unreleased OnePlus device sporting Hasselblad branding have been circulating for weeks. And more recently, OnePlus has shared a number of space-themed teasers that obliquely reference the deal. (Hasselblad has supplied NASA with cameras for use in space for decades, including the venerable Hasselblad 500ELs that landed on the moon with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.) But what does this deal actually mean for the OnePlus camera experience? To start, the OnePlus 9 series should benefit from "advanced color calibration" jointly developed by the two companies. Long story short, users should expect more accurate, natural-looking colors in photos taken with the OnePlus 9 Pro and beyond. And since Hasselblad deals almost exclusively in pro-grade, medium-format cameras, it's perhaps natural that special attention was paid to the OnePlus 9 series' Pro mode. In addition to typical features like direct control over ISO, focus, exposure time, and more, the Hasselblad Pro mode also lets users shoot photos as 12-bit RAW files and work with an editing interface inspired by Hasselblad's own Phocus image processing app. Meanwhile, on the video front, OnePlus says its Hasselblad-branded cameras will offer "improved" HDR video recording, plus support for 4K 120FPS and 8K 30FPS recording. Hasselblad bits aside, the OnePlus 9 Pro is widely expected to ship with four rear cameras, and the company revealed a few new details about them this morning. The phone's main camera will use one of Sony's new IMX789 sensors, which we've heard was custom-developed for the upcoming OPPO Find X3. (Given OnePlus's shared corporate parentage with OPPO, this really shouldn't be a shocker.) OnePlus also confirmed that its latest ultra-wide camera will use a so-called "freeform" lens — as seen on the Huawei Mate 40 Pro+ — that and all but eliminates barrel distortion in those spacious photos. With all this in mind, there are a few things worth noting. For one, despite OnePlus's embrace of space imagery in its recent teasers, the company has made no mention of a Pixel-like astrophotography mode. What's more, Hasselblad's deal with OnePlus will last for three years, and it's unclear how OnePlus's approach to color science may shift after the partnership expires. And this isn't Hasselblad's first attempt at a smartphone partnership, either — years ago, it teamed up with Motorola to create a separate 12-megapixel camera that magnetically attached to Moto Z smartphones. (Spoiler alert: It was just alright.) As it turns out, the OnePlus 9 is only part of the company’s plans to set new standards for smartphone photography. Over the next three years, OnePlus has pledged $150 million to “further develop” four camera research and development centers around the world, as well as experiment with new camera components and technologies to debut in future devices. On the docket right now: developing panoramic cameras with a 140-degree field of view and new lenses to improve autofocus for selfies, though the company was quick to note its efforts may extend well beyond these projects. OnePlus cameras have steadily improved over the years, but they have so far lagged behind competing offerings from companies like Samsung and Apple. With this multi-year deal in place, OnePlus seems ready to dramatically up its photography game, but for now, consider us cautiously optimistic. With any luck, the company's March 23rd launch event will have plenty of sample images — and more juicy details about its Hasselblad deal — for us to pore over.

    Apple's next iPhone could include a smaller display notch and larger battery

    Apple may not announce the 2021 iPhone until the second half of the year, but that hasn't stopped the rumor mill, with a new report this week coming out from reputable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a note obtained by MacRumors, Kuo says Apple will release four different iPhone models in 2021 that will come in the same sizes as the 2020 lineup. That means the mini variant will stick around for at least another year. Corroborating a report last month from well-known leaker Max Weinbach and others, Kuo said the iPhone 13 Pro models will feature energy-efficient 120Hz LTPO (low-temperature polycrystalline oxide) displays. The Pro models will also include an updated ultra-wide camera that will feature a faster f/1.8 aperture lens that includes autofocus. The 2021 models won't feature a drastically different design than their 2020 counterparts. However, thanks to some small engineering breakthroughs, they'll reportedly include bigger batteries and smaller display cutouts. Kuo said the iPhone won't move to USB-C in 2021, but nor will Apple introduce a phone this year that doesn't include any ports at all. Internally, all four phones will feature Qualcomm's X60 5G modem. The 5nm radio is smaller and more power-efficient than the X55 modem found in the iPhone 12 lineup. Notably, the note doesn't make any mention of Apple adding an in-display fingerprint scanner to the 2021 models. According to a report Bloomberg's Mark Gurman published at the start of the year, that was one of the main upgrades Apple was considering for 2021. It also looks like Touch ID is off the table, with Kuo noting that the company doesn't plan to take a page from the iPad Air and integrate the technology into the 2021 model's power button. Kuo's note also includes some tidbits about Apple's 2022 and 2023 iPhone lineups. According to the analyst, at least some iPhone models next year will feature a Samsung-style punch-hole display cutout. Whether the entire lineup abandons Apple's divisive notch will depend on panel production yields. Kuo didn't say what the move will mean for Face ID. Apple is also reportedly preparing a new SE model with 5G connectivity and a faster processor the company could release in the first half of 2022.

    Google mobile search redesign targets results, not frills

    You might soon have an easier time searching the web from your phone. Google is rolling out a visual redesign of mobile search that should help you focus on the results rather than... well, everything surrounding them. Results pages now run edge-to-e...

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