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iOS 15 features could include Apple’s big notification upgrade

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Apple’s iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, its upcoming major software refreshes for iPhone and iPad, will include a significant rework of how notifications are handled, according to a new report, potentially addressing a growing criticism of alert overload on mobile devices. The two new OSes – one designed for phones, the other for tablets, after Apple opted to cleft development in two – are expected to be previewed at WWDC 2021, the company’s annual developer event in early June.

Notifications and the Lock Screen in general has increasingly become a point of contention for iOS and iPadOS users. In the early days of the iPhone platform, Apple’s treatment of each notification as a separate block made sense; more recently, however, with a dramatic uptick in the number of apps and services wanting to push out their respective alerts to users, the Lock Screen has arguably become unruly and it’s easy to potentially miss a notification.

Apple has finessed the UI over the years, including grouping notifications by app, and there are settings which can control whether software can show a full notification or a more fleeting one. All the same, chatter of a revamp has been around for some time, and it seems iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 will be when it lands.

Users will be able to set different notification preferences, based on their current status, sources tell Bloomberg. That could include whether their iPhone or iPad makes a noise. Unlike the current, fairly blunt “Do Not Disturb” or driving modes – the latter which can automatically activate when the iPhone is in CarPlay mode in a vehicle – there’ll be multiple settings supposedly accessed via a new menu.

For example, users could set that they’re working, sleeping, driving, or a custom category – such as exercising – with a different set of notification preferences for each. That menu will be accessible from the new Lock Screen as well as in the Control Center. Automatic message replies, as are currently supported in driving mode, will also be supported for each status.

For iPadOS 15 specifically, there’ll be new Home Screen options. The widgets that Apple added to iOS 14 last year, which can be intermingled with regular icons on the Home Screen, will be expanded to iPadOS 15 it’s suggested. Currently, iPad widgets are corralled into a separate pane.

Both iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 will also expand Apple’s focus on privacy, the sources say. There’ll be a new menu which lists all of the personal data being collected and shared by apps, in part of an attempt to make more clear what information may be gathered in the background. It follows new rules Apple has applied to developers around disclosing data sharing policies and more.

Finally, there are said to be changes afoot to iMessage, Apple’s messaging platform. Though possibly not arriving in time for WWDC 2021, the updates are believed to be with a mind to making iMessage more of a social network than it is now, though exactly how that would operate is unclear at this stage.

WWDC 2021 kicks off on June 7, and – like last year – will be held entirely online rather than as an in-person event. Registration is open now, and unlike in previous years will be free and uncapped in number to developers.

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This HP EliteOne 800 G8 AiO has video call talents every PC should steal

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HP has revealed its latest all-in-one PC, and we can’t help thinking it’s wasted in businesses. The HP EliteOne 800 G8 All-in-One comes with a choice of 23.8- or 27-inch displays, with a pop-up camera on top that includes video call-friendly face tracking.

In fact, the array that slides out of the top of the AiO PC has dual 5-megapixel cameras inside, plus an IR camera and a time-of-flight sensor that can track distance. With all that, and an extra-wide field of view compared to the average webcam, it means the EliteOne 800 G8 can use digital tracking to center you in the middle of the frame, cropping accordingly.

There’s also auto scene detection, to adjust the lighting automatically depending on ambient conditions in the room. HP has fitted its AI-powered noise reduction system as well, for the first time on a PC, with the ability to spot and filter out over 350 million types of voices and noises. The filters work on both outbound and inbound noise, so even if you’re talking with someone with a lesser microphone system you’ll still hear the benefit.

There’s HP Dynamic Audio for speech, music, and movie audio tuning to cut through background noise, along with Dynamic Voice Leveling to automatically adjust the volume of your voice so that it stays consistent even as you move closer to, or further away from, the microphone. Even the cooling system has been designed to lower the fan noise while you’re on calls.

It’s all wrapped up in a design that could be mistaken for just being a standalone monitor. Inside there’s a choice of Intel 11th Gen Core processors, up to a Core i9; they can be paired with up to 64GB of DDR4 memory and up to 6TB of M.2 PCIe storage. On the graphics side, there’s a choice of Intel UHD Graphics 730 or 750, with the display resolution offering up to 2560 x 1440 depending on panel.

As for connectivity, on the wireless side you can have WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0. For ports, you get a lot more than a new iMac 24-inch offers: three USB-A, two USB-C, HDMI, DisplayPort, and ethernet are all included.

Clearly these aren’t the machines if you’re looking for serious graphical grunt (or gaming, for that matter). Still, the video calling systems HP has fitted could make a big difference if your schedule is still filled with back-to-back Zoom appointments. Meanwhile the EliteOne 800 G8’s design manages to step away from the norm in enterprise hardware, and wouldn’t look out of place in a home office instead.

No word on pricing at this stage, but HP says that the new all-in-one will go on sale later this month.

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The Google Assistant is adding new ways to corral your family

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Google is adding new Assistant features and tweaking some existing ones to make them more user-friendly, including expanding its Broadcast system. The new Family Broadcast takes the existing functionality – where you can pipe your voice through multiple Google smart speakers and smart displays in the house, useful for announcing meals are ready or reminding people it’s time to leave – and enhances it for smartphones and replies.

So, you can now create a Google Family Group, consisting not only of smart displays like the Nest Hub and speakers like the Nest Audio, but also iPhone and Android smartphones. Saying “Hey Google, tell my family, it’s time for us to hit the road” will broadcast your message across all of those devices in one fell swoop.

Those who hear the broadcast, meanwhile, will be able to respond by voice too. You’ll be able to say “Hey Google, reply ‘I’ll need a little extra time to catch the cat,’” for example, or tap the reply button to bypass the Assistant wake-word.

Meanwhile, Family Bell reminders are also getting a new convenience feature. Added to the Assistant’s array of talents in November last year, Family Bell is basically a group alarm for reminders. Google pitches it as useful for notifying everyone when it’s time for home-schooling to start, or for group chores.

Soon, though, you’ll be able to say “stop” to end the Family Bell alert by voice. It’s a shortcut that the Assistant already works with for individual alarms and timers, that’s being extended to Family Bell in English to begin with. Google will also add the ability to have Family Bells sound across multiple home devices simultaneously, not just one.

For other languages, Family Bell will be extended to support French, Japanese, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, German, Hindi, and Korean. That’s arriving in the coming weeks, Google says.

The updates come on the heels of new, behind-the-scenes changes Google has been making to its core Assistant technology. There are new pronunciation options, which allow users to correct names that the AI gets wrong, for example, along with better contextual understanding which the company says should improve how the Assistant handles things like timers and conversational queries that include multiple questions and responses.

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Your passwords suck, so Google will turn on two-factor security for you

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Google plans to enable two-factor authentication by default, automatically pushing users to safer security settings given the risks of relying solely on a password to protect your account. Currently, the system – also known as 2FA, two-step verification, or 2SV – is optional for Google accounts, though recommended.

It works, as the name suggests, by adding a second layer of security to your existing password. While that’s still required, along with your account username, Google also requires a second step: there, you have several options.

One – though generally not recommended – is to receive an SMS code to your cellphone, which you enter. Safer is using an authenticator app which generates such six-digit codes periodically, and which you have to enter within a time limit before they expire. More recently, Google has added the ability to tap a confirmation link on your smartphone when you’re trying to log in from a different device.

For those who want even more security, there’s the option to use a security key, a dedicated piece of hardware that must be present in order for the account to be accessible. Security keys can also be built into Android devices, too, while the Google Smart Lock app for iOS does similar for those using Apple’s iPhone.

Of course, all the 2FA options in the world are no use if you don’t switch the system on to begin with. Even if people aren’t sure whether their passwords are strong enough, it’s common that they don’t necessarily know that two-step verification is even an option for them.

“Soon we’ll start automatically enrolling users in 2SV if their accounts are appropriately configured,” Mark Risher, Director of Product Management, Identify and User Security at Google said today.

To see if your account is ready, Google’s Security Checkup will run through any issues. It’s generally a good idea for Google users to keep an eye on that interface on a regular basis anyway. Google is also using it to monitor potentially compromised passwords – and makes it easier to update any that could be affected – together with signing you out of devices you may no longer use or own, like old smartphones, PCs or Macs, or tablets.

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