Weekly Tech Recap - № 157 - Light Phone 2, Galaxy S9, Vulkan, Waymo, Facebook
Light Phone 2
Light Phone 2. © The Light Phone Inc.
The new 4G LTE Light Phone 2 is simple and minimalist, radically design, equipped with a nice matte screen backlit with E-Ink, and weighs about 80 grams. The premise of this phone is to allow you to "reclaim your life", because without Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, and Candy Crush, Saga or Tetris, you'll definitely have extra time on your hands to devote to pursuits other than staring at a screen, compulsively scrolling though photos and news of ever-decreasing interest. You can still do some things with the Light Phone 2, like making calls and sending texts (there's a touchscreen with keyboard display), but that's about as advanced as it gets. Taking a photo? Forget about it…for now, the Light Phone 2 is only in its prototype phase; the company is still finalizing its specifications and doesn't expect to ship the phone before April 2019. It's crowdfunded through Indiegogo, at a price of $225 USD.
⇨ Circuit Breaker, “The Light Phone 2 adds messaging and more to the ultra-minimalist cellphone.”
Galaxy S9. © Samsung.
Samsung unveiled its new high-end phone at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. There weren't any surprises, as most of the Galaxy's features had already been leaked online. Externally, for the S9 as well as the bigger sibling the S9+, there's really not much difference between these models and the previous generation. In addition to enhanced performance, the biggest new feature is on the camera side, with two 12 megapixel cameras: one with a telephoto lens opening to ƒ/2.4, and the other with a wide angle, variable opening from ƒ/1,5 or ƒ/2,4, depending on the light. DxOMark has already tested the S9's photographic abilities and has crowned it the best camera of all the phones on the market. On the front, there's an 8-megapixel camera. Also, Samsung couldn't help itself from copying Apple's Animojis, with a feature called AR Emoji. Unfortunately, the majority of early comments so far are of this ilk: "creepy puppets more likely to trigger nightmares than smiles." On a positive note for Samsung: everyone seems to have forgotten the catastrophic debacle of the Galaxy Note 7. And yes, the S9 still has an audio jack! Available for pre-order for $720 USD or $839 USD, depending on the model.
⇨ Ars Technica, “Galaxy S9 hands-on—Samsung fixes the biggest flaw of the Galaxy S8.”
⇨ The Verge, “Samsung’s Galaxy S9 AR Emoji are kind of horrifying.”
Vulkan on macOS and iOS
Dota 2. © Valve.
Vulkan is the open graphics API that replaced OpenGL and is supported by all platforms, except iOS and macOS, as Apple uses its own Metal API. Game developers who want to create iOS or macOS versions have to use either Metal, which requires a lot of porting work, or OpenGL. Unfortunately, the version of OpenGL which is supported by Apple is becoming more and more obsolete, and has always been clunky. Without any help from Apple, Khronos, Valve, LunarG and Brenwill Workshop decided to step up to the plate and developed a toolbox that allows for on-the-fly conversions of Vulcan to Metal. This will definitely make the portage of many games into iOS or macOS much easier. Valve has already created a macOS/Vulkan version of its title Dota 2, and it's twice as fast as the original Mac version. Under Apache 2 license, use of the tool, named Molten VK, is free.
⇨ Ars Technica, “Vulkan is coming to macOS and iOS, but no thanks to Apple.”
Waymo raising public awareness about driverless technologies
Waymo has released a new video that allows you to step into their driverless vans and see what it's like to experience a trip in one of their Chrysler Pacificas, providing a 360-degree view of what the car sees and how it works. Launched in 2009, the company has driven 5 million miles autonomously, and in the last three months alone it has racked up 1 million miles. Waymo and other companies operating driverless vehicles are attempting to educate people on how these technologies work. Waymo also launched an education campaign with Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other groups to inform and gain the public's trust in this kind of technology.
Facebook hits saturation point: US
Menlo Park, California. © iStock.
It looks like the US has hit peak Facebook and that it won't be getting more users anytime soon. According to new research from the Pew Research Centre, 68 per cent of Americans use Facebook, a number that has remained stagnant for two years. On the other hand, Instagram is growing in popularity - about 35 per cent of US adults use Instagram, up from 28 percent in 2016. According to the report, Snapchat is also a major competitor: many youth are using this platform in numbers that may soon eclipse their use of Facebook.