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Brydge Pro+ Review: The best iPad Pro keyboard doesn’t have an Apple logo

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Happy harmony is the new iPad Pro and Brydge’s Pro+ keyboard, arguably the purest and best accessory out there for Apple’s laptop-replacing tablet. If you want the simplest form of a keyboard attachment for the iPad Pro, I recommend skipping the review and heading straight to Apple.com to purchase the Magic Keyboard. If, however, you’re looking for the best typing experience available that happens to have an integrated trackpad and looks damn sleek, then keep reading my review of the Brydge Pro+. I promise it’ll be worth your time.

If you’re truly using the iPad Pro for everything from consuming media content to processing images and massively-sized videos, then your best option is to go with nothing less than 512GB or 1TB. Among the main reasons I’d opt for the iPad Pro over a MacBook Pro or Air right now is the integrated LTE capability. I’d go so far as to say it’s crucial for anyone that travels a lot for work, and needs the convenience of an always-connected device.

My 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2020 review unit from Apple came with both 1TB storage and LTE, which – with tax – comes in at a whopping $1,790.81. There’s no doubt that that’s a lot of money for a tablet. Then again, if you’ve read my review of the new iPad Pro, you’ll already know it’s more than just a tablet or a laptop replacement. Nonetheless, every additional dollar you consider spending on accessories, whether it’s the second generation Apple Pencil or a keyboard, might seem like an undue burden on your bank account.

The Brydge Pro+ is priced at $199.99 and $229.99 for the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro, respectively. That makes it great bang for your buck compared to everything else out there; Apple’s Magic Keyboard, for example, is significantly higher at $299 and $349 for the 11-inch and 12-inch iPad Pro.

Brydge retained much of its core design principles from previous keyboards for the iPad and iPad Pro lines, while the Magic Keyboard does the same by retaining similar design elements as the Folio Keyboard. However, both of these keyboards are worlds apart in how they attach to each other.

Before I continue, it’s worth noting that the best solution is up to your preference and if money was no object, owning both is still the best option.

The iPad Pro physically attaches to the Pro+ keyboard by way of sliding it into the left and right hinges hanging out of the top of the keyboard. It’s not as elegant as Apple’s magnetic solution, nor is it as easy and efficient. You do need to use both hands when attaching and detaching the iPad.

One immediate drawback I’ve experienced with previous Brydge Pro and Pro+ keyboards comes down to using screen protectors. The slots into which you slide the iPad are a fixed width, meaning that any screen protectors with a thickness of over 0.03mm will have issues fitting, and can even cause the rubber attachments to peel off. I shared my concern with the team and was offered Brydge’s own screen protector to test for myself; I’m happy to report that the fit is near-perfect, but you’ll need to budget another $29.99.

There’s no denying that the Pro+ and iPad Pro combo look amazing. To my eyes, it’s as if Apple were to make a MacBook touch laptop, this would be what it would look like. The overall dimensions and finish match the tablet perfectly, right down to the Space Gray.

The Brydge Pro+ for the iPad Pro 12.9-inch measures in at 11.04 X 8.46 x 0.27 inches compared to the tablet itself at 11.04 X 8.46 X 0.23 inches. The thickness of the Pro+ is ever so slightly greater, then, by 0.03 inches; it’s also slightly heavier, at 1.51 lb (690g), compared to the while the 12.9-inch iPad Pro Wi-Fi + Cellular’s 1.42 lb (643g). Together, they total up to 2.93 lb, which lines up with what you’d expect from a MacBook Pro or Air.

If you’re thinking, man, that’s heavy, I might as well buy a laptop, then this is where the iPad is the best of all worlds. After all, you can’t detach the screen from your MacBook and carry that around by itself.

In real-world usage, I’ve had zero issues of the iPad Pro unintentionally sliding out of the hinges. I can carry it around from room to room, or run through an airport, with little worry of an accident. That’s not the case with the Magic Keyboard: its magnets are more convenient if you frequently attach and detach, but not as reassuring in their grip.

Using the Pro+ on my lap is just as you’d expect from using a laptop. The biggest benefit here? Due to the design of the hinges, the viewing angle can go from 0 (closed) to 180-degrees. It’s hard to beat this design, hands down. I’m still waiting on my review unit of the Magic Keyboard to test it for myself, but early reviews are in and everything I’m reading is that the viewing angle is still limited, particularly in how far you can tilt the screen back.

So does the iPad Pro topple over if it’s tilted more than 150-degrees back? Nope, not at all. If like me you’re used to being able to quickly get work done – whether you’re in a car, on an airplane, or back at your desk – having that flexibility helps a lot. It’s also a godsend when you’re trying to cut down on glare from the sun, or indeed angle the screen to keep prying eyes from seeing what you’re working on.

Why Apple didn’t include the row of function keys on its official keyboards is a mystery to me; it’s not like there isn’t enough space above the number row. Here’s another +1 for the Pro+, then. It finds space for home, lock, keyboard backlit, brightness up and down for the iPad, the virtual keyboard on/off, emoji keyboard, multimedia switches, volume up/down, Bluetooth and power buttons for the keyboard.

So why’s this important? For me, reaching up with my left pinky finger to go back to the Home screen is much faster and more convenient than swiping down twice on the trackpad. It’s the same with having direct access to pausing and skipping music or video I’m listening to or watching.

What’s mercifully the same as you’d expect is the main keyboard layout. That’s basically standard, with the exception of a new key on the far left of the bottom row for Siri. Each key feels solid and the travel is 1.5mm compared to 1mm on the Magic Keyboard. The typing experience is nothing short of great – which says a lot for a third-party keyboard accessory.

While the backlit keys are useful at night, there’s definitely some light bleeding out from underneath. It’s not a major issue but worth pointing out if this is something that bothers you.

Two pieces of rubber on the far edges, off the side of the trackpad, prevent the display of the iPad from touching the keyboard. There’s nothing worse than smudges or key prints on the display, this is something that drives me absolutely bonkers on laptops.

Finally, let’s discuss the trackpad. It works as expected: after all, it’s like every other trackpad available on a laptop. There’s little to zero lag when scrolling around, and its surface is smooth thanks to an all-glass top layer. Sadly, unlike the Magic Keyboard’s trackpad, only the bottom 80% of the trackpad is actually clickable. Anything above that is just there for show. Again, this isn’t a showstopper for me, but it’s worth noting.

The physical click is satisfying, but I rarely use it when taping the surface serves the same function. As for multi-gestures, most two-finger gestures work fine but anything with three fingers does not work. This is due to how iPadOS sees the trackpad, unfortunately, and it leaves Brydge’s trackpad falling short of what Apple provides with its own Magic Keyboard trackpad.

It means no three-finger swipe up to switch apps, go home, or switch back and forth between apps. There’s a minor workaround under Assistive Touch where you can create a custom three-finger tap to bring up the list of apps opened. That would be fine, were it not for a bug with iPadOS which constantly brings up the virtual keyboard even when there’s a physical keyboard attached. I just ended up flipping Assistive Touch off. Without the finger gesture, it takes a whole three swipes down just to bring up the app switcher. If you’re inside another app, the first swipe brings up the row of apps at the bottom, the second swipe takes you home and, finally, the third brings up the list of open apps.

Happily it doesn’t matter if you’re using Apple’s own keyboard or a third-party ‘board: holding down the Command key will allow for certain shortcuts depend on the app and where you are within iPadOS. Similar to the Home button, for instance, you can press Command + h to jump back to the homescreen. The most often used key combo for me is Command + Spacebar, which allows me to perform a universal search on the iPad.

Finally, other iPadOS gestures work as expected. Swiping straight up towards the middle of the display and over to the left drops down notifications, while swiping up towards the right and then pushing further pulls down the shortcut panel.

All in all, the Brydge Pro+ keyboard is one of the best and most-used accessories that I own for the iPad Pro. It has a simple design that securely attaches the iPad while still allowing you to quickly and easily remove it; the typing experience is just as good as any other laptop keyboard. Finally, the design truly compliments the overall aesthetic of the iPad, while the additional weight balances it out whether you’re using it on your lap, a table, or even the drinks tray on an airplane. Touchpad frustrations aside, I highly recommend it for any iPad Pro owner looking to take text entry seriously.

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This is the real voice behind Google Assistant

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When using Google Assistant, most of us don’t even consider who the voice is coming from — after all, it’s artificial intelligence, not a real person. Our virtual assistants, be it Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant, are always at our beck and call, but we (for the most part) remain well-aware of the fact that they’re just lines of code and intricate algorithms. But how would you feel if you knew that Google Assistant has a very human backstory?

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In an interview with The Atlantic, James Giangola, the lead conversation and persona designer at Google, spoke about the Assistant at great length. When the team set out to create its AI-based assistant, they knew that the line between a cool, futuristic feature and a mildly creepy if uncanny voice bot is very, very thin. Google Assistant was never meant to seem human — that would just be disturbing — but she was meant to be just human enough to make us feel comfortable. To achieve that elusive feeling of somewhat reserved comfort, Giangola and his team went to great lengths to perfect the Assistant.

You’d think that just hiring a skilled voice actor would be enough, but there was much more to consider than just finding a pleasant voice. James Giangola set out on a quest to make the Google Assistant sound normal and to hide that alien feeling of speaking to a robot. In order to do this, he made up a lengthy backstory for the Assistant.

A robot with an extensive backstory

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When searching for the right voice actress and then training her later on, The Atlantic notes that James Giangola came up with a very specific backstory for the AI. He did so because he wanted Google Assistant to appear real, and in order to give it a distinct personality, he gave the voice actress a lengthy background on the Assistant. First and foremost, the Assistant comes from Colorado, which gives her a neutral accent.

She comes from a well-read family and is the youngest daughter of a physics professor (who has a B.A. in art history from Northwestern University, no less) and a research librarian. She once worked for “a very popular late-night-TV satirical pundit” as a personal assistant. She was always a smart kid, she won $100,000 on the Kids Edition of “Jeopardy.” Oh, and she also likes kayaking. Let’s not forget: She’s not real.

The need to create such a specific backstory may seem questionable, and it actually was questioned by James Giangola’s colleagues. However, Giangola was able to prove his point during the audition process. When a colleague asked him how does anyone even sound like they’re into kayaking, Giangola fired back: “The candidate who just gave an audition — do you think she sounded energetic, like she’s up for kayaking?” And she didn’t, which to Giangola meant that she wasn’t the right voice.

Google aimed for ‘upbeat geekiness’

Phone with Google Assistant

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Aside from nailing the exact tone of her voice, which The Atlantic described as “upbeat geekiness,” the Assistant had to be trained to sound human not just by voice, but also by speech patterns and rhythms. In the interview, James Giangola talks about some of the different small changes that were made to take the Assistant from robotic to almost natural.

To illustrate the example, Giangola played a recording in which the AI had to contradict a user who wanted to book something on June 31. It had to be done in a delicate, natural-sounding manner that still delivers the required information. When prompted, the Assistant replied: “Actually, June has only 30 days,” achieving the level of vocal realism Giangola was looking for.

Although the Assistant’s intricate backstory may seem overkill, it seems to have helped Google find the right voice actress. According to Tech Bezeer, the main voice of the Assistant is Antonia Flynn, who was cast back in 2016. However, Google is not very forthcoming with information about who exactly voices each version of the Assistant, so this needs to be taken with a grain of salt. The information originates from Reddit, where a user was able to track Flynn down based on her voice, but only Google knows whether she really is the friendly AI inside our mobile devices.

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Microsoft’s post-Windows Phone vision leaks, but don’t get your hopes up

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While Microsoft’s Windows Phone ambitions are well and truly dead at this point, there was a time when the company was plotting a follow-up to the ill-fated mobile operating system. That follow-up was known internally as Andromeda OS, and it was being developed as the operating system for the Surface Duo. Sadly, Microsoft’s plan to create a version of Windows for dual-screen devices never saw the light of day, but today we’re getting a look at an internal build of Andromeda OS and what could have been.

Image: Microsoft

That look comes from Zac Bowden at Windows Central, who managed to get a build of Andromeda OS up and running on a Lumia 950. Even though Andromeda OS was intended for the Surface Duo, Microsoft apparently conducted internal testing on Lumia 950 devices, making it a solid choice for this hands-on.

In both his write-up and the video you see embedded below, Bowden is very clear that this is not some leak of a work-in-progress mobile operating system. Andromeda OS is dead and not in active development, so there’s no real hope of seeing a more fully-featured version launch on Microsoft’s mobile hardware at any point in the future. Despite that rather grim reality, this is a good look at the progress Microsoft made before it ultimately decided to ship the Surface Duo with Android.

Though the hands-on shows us an operating system that is very rough-around-the-edges and somewhat clunky, it’s immediately obvious that Microsoft planned Andromeda OS with inking capabilities at the center. For instance, the lock screen doubles as an inking space, allowing users to jot quick notes down on it that persist until they’re erased or the lock screen is cleared entirely.

Just as well, unlocking the device takes you to a home screen that also doubles as a journal. As with the lock screen, you can use this page to take notes, but you can also do things like paste stuff from the clipboard or insert an image for markup. Having the phone unlock to what is essentially a blank canvas instead of a home screen full of app icons is an interesting idea and one that we’re probably never going to see on other devices.

Andromeda OS also features a Start menu reminiscent of Windows Phone, which means that it has those familiar Live Tiles. Bowden also shows off the various gesture controls included in Andromeda OS, swiping from the left to summon the aforementioned Start menu and from the right to bring up Cortana and notifications. Swiping down pulls up the Control Center, which will look familiar to those who are currently using Windows 11.

Image: Windows Central

We’re also given a brief demo of what Andromeda OS might have looked like on an actual dual-screen device, but since that demo is also on a Lumia 950, we sadly don’t get the full experience. Still, it’s interesting to see what might have been before Microsoft decided to can Andromeda OS entirely and switch to Android for the Surface Duo.

While there’s no chance we’ll see this project revived for future Microsoft hardware, there is always the chance that some individual features could make their way to the Surface Duo. Even then, it’s probably best to appreciate this as a relic of the past rather than something that might inform Microsoft’s future efforts, as disappointing as that may be for those who miss Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile.

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Google just got terrible news in Europe – and it could get much worse

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Google was just hit by some very bad news coming from Europe, but the news may be even worse for website owners than for Google itself. In an unprecedented case, the court in Austria has just ruled that Google Analytics is in violation with the European data protection laws. As a result, Google Analytics has been made illegal in Austria.

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It all comes back to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) observed in Europe. Implemented in 2018, GDPR was created to give European citizens more control over their personal data, both online and offline. Unfortunately, the GDPR and US surveillance laws just do not mix.

According to a decision made in 2020 by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU,) policies that force website providers in the US to provide personal user data to authorities are against the GDPR. While this may not seem that related to Google Analytics at the first glance, it very much is. Some of the information readily collected by US providers is in direct violation with the GDPR, which in theory means that these websites would have to stop collecting private information in order to legally operate within Europe. In practice, it seems that not much has changed since 2018.

Google Analytics is now completely illegal in Austria

Prior to 2020, a law called the Privacy Shield was in place that allowed European data to be transferred to the United States. However, the shield was invalidated by the CJEU on July 16, 2020. Since then, US-based websites were not allowed to transfer the data of European citizens to the US. Of course, this only applies to data that falls under the GDPR, which only includes identifiable information about any given person. However, according to FieldFisher, this also includes IP addresses, as that is regarded as an “online identifier.”

Regardless of the 2020 ruling made by the CJEU, many providers continued to send personal data to the US — including Google Analytics. As stated by Max Schrems, honorary chair of NOYB, an European non-profit focused on digital rights, “Instead of actually adapting services to be GDPR compliant, US companies have tried to simply add some text to their privacy policies and ignore the Court of Justice. Many EU companies have followed the lead instead of switching to legal options.”

The Austrian Data Protection Authority has now followed up on what the CJEU ruled back in 2020 and made the use of Google Analytics completely illegal. The ruling comes into effect immediately, so all the websites that service Austrian citizens need to act quickly in order to not be fined for violating the local laws.

What will the new court ruling change?

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Many companies that operate in Europe will now have to decide between continuing to use Google Analytics and swapping to an alternative website traffic tool. Refusing to comply may result in hefty fines. However, it could be that providers will continue to ignore the European laws and risk the fines: After all, not every such business will be caught or reported. If caught, the price could be high: NOYB has described a case where the Irish Data Protection Commission issued a fine of 225 million euro on WhatsApp for violating data protection laws.

Ultimately, US-based companies will have to think of workarounds for European privacy laws. Simply hosting customer data in Europe would be helpful, although this would of course limit the type of data that can be freely collected and distributed. For the time being, websites that continue to use Google Analytics will need to obtain consent from each visitor prior to collecting any data.

The choice to ban Google Analytics in Austria may be the first step in a larger revolution. Other countries in the European Union are likely to follow, so while Austria may be the first bit of bad news for Google, there is likely much more to come.

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