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Bitcoin’s Biggest Update in Years Brings Smart Contracts to the Network

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The Bitcoin network has just seen a major tech update named Taproot, which is the network’s biggest update since 2017. The new update was activated on November 14 and will allow developers to integrate new features enabling improvements of privacy, scalability, and security on the Bitcoin network. The upgrade has been anticipated since June when over 90 percent of miners chose to “signal” their support. A waiting period was then initiated between the lock-in and the activation date. This period has given the node operators the time required to upgrade to the latest version of Bitcoin Core, 21.1 — the version that contains the merged code for Taproot.

The update is the first major upgrade to the network’s code since Segregated Witness or SegWit (that was introduced in 2017), which tackled issues pertaining to the scalability of the network. Taproot, which has seen universal support from the community since its ideation, is a coming together of a number of technical improvements over the years rolled into one major upgrade.

One of the major properties of the Taproot update is the introduction of Schnorr signatures, allowing more complex transactions on the Bitcoin network to be made. Until now, the cryptographic framework used by the Bitcoin network was ECDSA, short for Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm, with users signing a transaction using their private key to approve it. Taproot uses the Schnorr scheme which is faster and smaller than ECDSA, with linear signatures.

With the new upgrade, transactions from multi-signature wallets would look like any other transaction, enhancing the privacy and security of transactions. This will eventually pave the way for smart contracts to be made, ending the need for middlemen and bringing Bitcoin’s network up to speed with the likes of Ethereum that inherently enables smart contracts.

While Taproot’s potential is immense, it will be some time before the upgrade takes effect fully. Users will also be unable to send or receive the new transactions until the Bitcoin wallet they are using supports it. This could take a while as most wallets do not support it at the moment. Bitcoin’s last major upgrade, SegWit, took almost two years to reach adoption levels of 50 percent.

A Coindesk report points out that, so far, only a little more than half of the known Bitcoin nodes are signalling support for the upgrade. The rest are still on the older build of the software, which means they will not yet be able to enforce the new rules of Taproot — at least, not until they upgrade to Bitcoin Core 21.1.


Interested in cryptocurrency? We discuss all things crypto with WazirX CEO Nischal Shetty and WeekendInvesting founder Alok Jain on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.
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Infinix Note 11i With 5,000mAh Battery, Triple Rear Cameras Unveiled

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Infinix Note 11i smartphone has debuted as the latest model in the company’s Note series. Top features of the new Infinix phone include a triple rear camera unit highlighted by 48-megapixel primary sensor and 18W fast charging support. The latest budget handset from Infinix is powered by a MediaTek Helio G85 SoC paired with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. Infinix Note 11i features a hole-punch display notch design for the selfie camera and offers a 5,000mAh battery capacity. For authentication, the handset has a side-mounted fingerprint sensor as well.

Infinix Note 11i price, availability

The price for Infinix Note 11i has not been listed by the company. But a Pricebaba report says the phone costs GHC 979 (roughly Rs. 11,900) in Ghana. As mentioned, the Infinix Note 11i is offered in a single 4GB RAM and 64GB storage configuration.

The phone is listed on the official website in three colour options — Black, Blue, and Green. Infinix has not shared any details about the product’s Indian launch and availability yet.

Infinix Note 11i specifications

The dual-SIM (Nano) Infinix Note 11i runs on Android 11 based XOS 7.6. The smartphone sports a 6.95-inch full-HD+ (1,080×2,460 pixels) IPS LCD display with a 91 percent screen-to-body ratio and a 180Hz touch sampling rate. The display is also accredited by TUV Rheinland for low blue light and has a contrast ratio of 1500:1.

Under the hood, the Infinix Note 11i packs a MediaTek Helio G85 processor coupled with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of onboard storage. The storage can be expanded via a microSD card (up to 256GB).

For optics, the latest Infinix Note series phone features a triple rear camera setup housed in a rectangular camera module. The camera unit includes a 48-megapixel primary sensor, a 2-megapixel portrait lens, and a 2-megapixel macro sensor. For selfies and videos, Infinix Note 11i has a 16-megapixel front camera.

Infinix Note 11i is touted to be a gaming device and it features dual speakers with DTS surround sound. The Dar-link 2.0 software in Infinix Note 11i uses artificial intelligence (AI) to provide image stability and touch sensitivity.

Connectivity options on the Infinix Note 11i include Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 5G, Bluetooth, GPS, 3.5mm headphone jack, Micro-USB port, OTG, and FM radio Infinix Note 11i has AI noise reduction technology as well. Sensors on board include a G-sensor, gyroscope, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor, and e-compass. As mentioned, the smartphone packs a side-mounted fingerprint sensor and face unlock feature for authentication.

Infinix Note 11i is equipped with a 5,000mAh battery that supports 33W Super Charge fast charging. Infinix claims the battery gives a standby time of up to 53 days and a music playback time of 160 hours. The handset measures 173.2×78.7×8.8mm.


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Video firm gets Qumulo scale-out NAS and super-fine metrics

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Broadcast digital services company Cognacq-Jay Image has deployed scale-out NAS storage from Qumulo. A key attraction over its competitors was finely grained monitoring and control over settings, especially for use with applications that handle large numbers of files and with tight timescales dictated by customers.

“Every day we receive several TB of video that we must process and return, with deadlines dictated by channel schedules,” said Michel Desconnets, head of IT at Cognacq-Jay Image. “We have to maintain throughput, but we are as dependent on performance as the accuracy of the process.”

Cognacq-Jay Image’s work consists of post-production work on TV programmes such as adding credits, advertising or subtitles. But with the bulk of TV now being via digital channels, most work is now IT-related, and each video needs to be transcoded to a variety of formats for multiple set-top boxes and applications.

“For TV news, for example, we receive recently shot footage and send it back correctly formatted after 10 minutes,” said Desconnets. “But for a high-resolution film, there can be several hours of conversion processing. Some customers send us their video at the last minute; others weeks in advance.

“The number of formats varies by client. Some videos need the addition of digital rights management [DRM], for example. We have to take all these things into consideration, and manage priorities for numerous jobs at any given time on our systems. It’s a very complex process.”

Customers range from independent small channels to large media groups. Some clients carry out part of the processing internally, while others don’t.

Some demand that Cognacq-Jay Image retains dedicated infrastructure for their work. It is for that reason that the company has seen platforms multiply in its datacentre, with scale-out NAS from Isilon (Dell EMC) and object storage from Scality.

The challenge of tight timescales

In 2020, an unnamed customer wanted to add to its production jobs, but the Scality array used didn’t offer the required workload characteristics. “It was a 300TB array and supported throughput of 2.5GBps,” said Desconnets. “Capacity wasn’t a problem because 60TB was dedicated to production, with the rest handling archiving as it was sent back to the client.

“Our main concern was throughput. We needed 3GBps for writes plus 1GBps to export the final files.”

Desconnets added: “The servers that execute transcoding support large amounts of bandwidth and write a large quantity of files in parallel. But if their write times are 20% less performant than their processing speed, that retards other processes. The problem is that we don’t know which ones slow the whole thing down.

“In other words, beyond a simple technical bottleneck, we didn’t know how to react to problems quickly. And yet, problems like these – an error in transcoding, a bad file, etc – are very frequent and require extreme vigilance on our part.”

In the middle of 2020, Desconnets and his team started to look for a new storage setup.
“In all their offer, Scality was more able to deliver capacity than speed of access,” he said. “In other words, their solutions meant we would have to buy lots of servers to compensate for latency.

“With Isilon, bandwidth was less of a problem. But it is very difficult to monitor activity on an Isilon array, in particular as you try to diagnose problems posed by small files, large files, etc.”

Qumulo storage software on HPE hardware

During the research process, Desconnets came across Qumulo. “They suggested we test some machines for a couple of months,” he said. “We were able to validate that their solution contained very rich APIs [application programming interfaces] that would allow us to write extensive scripts and had ready-to-use test processes.”

The order for Qumulo went in during the final quarter of 2020. Qumulo is a software product and was bought through HPE, which supplied pre-configured hardware which comprised six 2U Apollo servers with 36TB of storage capacity.

Qumulo is part of a new wave of scale-out NAS and distributed storage products that seek to address the growing need to store unstructured data, often in the cloud as well as the customer datacentre.

The order was completed with two 1U switches. Besides connecting the Qumulo nodes, the switches enabled four connections of 10GBps to the transcoding servers, which comprised about 30 Windows machines.

“The transcoding servers are connected to the same client and that posed the question of whether to opt for hyper-converged infrastructure [HCI] with compute and storage in the same node,” said Desconnets. “But HCI isn’t suited to our needs where compute is independent of storage capacity. We want to be able to add to one without necessarily adding to the other.

“Our processes also pass through our export servers, which are not dedicated to specific clients and so require a separated infrastructure.”

The components were in place by the end of 2020, said Desconnets. “We needed to get it into production from the start of 2021, but a customer added to their workload just before Christmas. So, we decided to accelerate the migration. In the end, we completed testing for production in two days.”

And then, the solution derailed.
At first, everything went as Cognacq-Jay Image imagined it would. But two months later, it hit a snag.

“In February 2021, we suddenly noticed queues building,” said Desconnets. “A file that would have been sent in an hour took two, or even three hours when transcoding to some formats. Qumulo monitoring tools revealed latencies increased by 100x. But that didn’t mean we knew whether the problem was with disks, or software or our tools.

“So we took advantage of the functionality in the API that enables us to get real-time monitoring. As a result of that, I realised that if I turned off some transcoders, everything went faster, and that meant that – paradoxically – parallel working was counter-productive.”

Desconnets soon understood that the problem was to do with the way processing was organised. “We had taken the decision to transcode all files in an initial format, then to put them into a second format, etc,” he said. “But by doing this, we had to load and unload files in cache with each transcoding run.”

He explained that the cache comprised 1TB on each node, with 6TB in total, and so was not enough to hold all files while they were being processed.

“Best practice is to transcode a file in all possible formats, then go to the next file,” said Desconnets. “What we needed to do was to transcode a file and get it out as quickly as possible, rather than do lots at the same time.”

Opportunity for granular monitoring

Desconnets is proud of the monitoring system he has built for the company’s Qumulo deployment. It comprises Zabbix to gather metrics, Kibana to analyse logs and Grafana, which creates graphical visualisations.

“I deployed a console that allowed us to drill down into the provenance of each operation,” said Desconnets. “This monitoring system allows us to resolve all problems in less than a week. At the end of two weeks, we optimised all settings and even discovered bugs that had existed for a long time in our processes and managed to iron them out.”

Since then, the team has added two more Apollo nodes. Raw capacity has increased to 288TB (210TB usable), with the rest given over to redundancy. “On average, we use 100TB a day, but that’s sometimes 180TB one day and 85TB the next,” said Desconnets. “This isn’t storage that grows gradually, but fills and empties all the time.

“Nevertheless, our Qumulo cluster has run like a watch. The metrics keep allowing us to monitor client activity. For example, we have seen where operations have not completed quickly enough and that has allowed us to resolve bottlenecks.”

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Apple TV+ Gets First Korean Series Following Netflix’s Squid Game Success

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Hot on the heels of Netflix’s breakout South Korean hit Squid Game, Apple has rolled out its first Korean-language original series this month, to coincide with the launch of its Apple TV+ streaming service in South Korea.

Based on a Korean Web comic of the same name, Dr. Brain is a six-episode sci-fi thriller about a cold-hearted neurologist Koh Sewon who tries to find clues to a mysterious family accident through brain experiments.

Apple’s foray into original Korean content comes as the country’s entertainment industry reaches new global popularity, from k-pop superstars such as BTS to the 2020 Oscar-winning South Korean film Parasite, and now Squid Game, which became Netflix’s biggest original series launch.

Director Kim Jee-woon said after the consecutive success of such Korean content, global audiences began to understand Korean culture through artistic works and that he had made an extra effort to get the translations right.

“I hope Dr. Brain can prove there are diverse works in South Korea that cover a wide variety of genres, sensibilities and materials as much as previous mega hit Korean series,” Kim said in an interview with Reuters.

Lead actor Lee Sun-kyun, who will be familiar to international audiences from his role in Parasite, said his role as Koh is one of a man dragged into a “whirlpool of emotions” whose connections to other people’s minds made him reflect on his own faults.

“It is a very deep science fiction mysterious thriller, but at the same time it is a drama about how a man who was destitute of feelings happened to receive others’ emotions due to side effects of brain scanning,” Lee told Reuters.

Dr. Brain debuted on November 4 as Apple TV+ launched in South Korea, with other original content available dubbed or with Korean subtitles. For now, it lags far behind rival Netflix in South Korea, which has been offering licensed and original Korean content for several years.

The launch of its TV service in South Korea comes as Apple is one of several American tech giants to face new regulations in the country forcing them to open their app stores to third-party payments.

The increasing number of over-the-top media service (OTT) platforms such as Netflix, Apple TV+, and Disney Plus, that found new popularity in the pandemic era, have allowed actors to explore roles they may not have been able to on more traditional broadcasters, Lee said.

“The era of COVID-19 has come with new age for drama production,” he said.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

Squid Game Season 1 Watch on Netflix
  • Release Date 17 September 2021
  • Genre Action, Adventure, Mystery, Thriller, Drama
  • Duration 8h 11min
  • Cast

    Lee Jung-jae, Park Hae-soo, Wi Ha-joon, Jung Ho-yeon, O Yeong-su, Heo Sung-tae, Anupam Tripathi, Kim Joo-ryoung

  • Director Hwang Dong-hyuk
  • Music Jung Jae-il
  • Producer Hwang Dong-hyuk
  • Production Siren Pictures Inc.
  • Users Rating


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Traders’ Body Asks NCB to Investigate Amazon’s Role in Alleged Drug Case

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Traders’ body Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) has demanded the Central Government and the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) take strict action against Amazon for the alleged sale of marijuana via its e-commerce site. Last week, the Madhya Pradesh Police claimed that it had busted a drug peddling gang that was moving more than 1,000 kilograms of the prohibited drug in packages carrying Amazon’s branding. The CAIT has asked Home Minister Amit Shah and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan to ensure that the issue “should not go in the air” and called it a serious threat to national security.

On the basis of the initial investigation, the CAIT said in a press conference on Monday that the state police raided an Amazon warehouse in Gwalior on Sunday where more than 380 packets of marijuana camouflaged as curry leaves. The traders’ body claimed that drug had been sold and fulfilled from the warehouse.

 

CAIT National President BC Bhatia and Secretary General Praveen Khandelwal alleged that by selling marijuana worth more than Rs. 1 crore, Amazon was earning a commission of 66 percent.

“Amazon has contravened Section 20(b) of NDPS (Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) Act that says ‘produces, manufactures, possesses, sells, purchases, transports, imports inter-State, exports inter-State or uses cannabis, shall be punishable’,” the CAIT claimed in a press statement.

Bhatia and Khandelwal demanded that Amazon and its top management should be punished under Section 20 (ii)(c) of the NDPS Act. Both also raised the question of why Amazon did not use its artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) abilities to identify the sale of illegal and banned products including marijuana.

“The answer is simple, because they have the least regard for Indian people and Indian laws when it comes to growing their business,” Bhatia and Khandelwal claimed.

The CAIT also urged the government agencies including NCB to conduct searches for similar stock at other warehouses of Amazon. It also demanded the government and income tax authorities to investigate if the alleged supply of the drug is linked to any anti-national activities including money laundering and/ or funding for terrorist activities or Naxalite activities.

According to the First Information Report (FIR) filed by the Madhya Pradesh Police, a copy of which is with Gadgets 360, the accused were identified on Saturday. The FIR, however, does not explicitly define any role of Amazon in the matter. A report from Hindustan Times mentioned that it asked Amazon to explain if it would be able to verify the sellers that allegedly transported the drug through its online platform. The company did not respond to the police, the report said.

Gadgets 360 has reached out to Amazon India for a comment on the matter, and received the following statement from a spokesperson:

“Amazon operates a marketplace in India (amazon.in), which enables third-party sellers to display, list and offer for sale, products to end-customers directly. Amazon has a high bar on compliance and contractually our sellers are required to comply with all applicable laws for selling their products on amazon.in. We do not allow the listing and sale of products which are prohibited under law to be sold in India. However, in case sellers list such products, as an intermediary, we take strict action as may be required under the law, when the same is highlighted to us. The issue was notified to us and we are currently investigating it whether there is any non-compliance on part of the seller. We assure full co-operation and support required to Investigating Authorities and Law Enforcement agencies with ongoing investigations and ensure full compliance to applicable laws.”


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Mastodon Will Not Support NFTs on Its Platform

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Mastodon, the federated social networking service that allows users to create their own private networks, made it clear that it won’t be incorporating support for non-fungible tokens or NFTs on its platform. The platform has been vocal in its stance against microtransactions enabled by NFTs and in a reply to a Twitter user on the platform said that “Mastodon will never support and/or create NFTs”. The move comes just days after Discord CEO Jason Citron suffered a serious backlash from the community for hinting at a possible integration of Ethereum-based wallets.

Although often seen as an alternative to most of the more popular social media platforms, Mastodon is certain about its anti-NFT stance, contrary to the likes of Twitter and Facebook who have hired entire teams to look into tech innovations in the crypto space.

Mastodon has, earlier, cleared the air about how the term ‘decentralisation’ doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with “blockchain, cryptocurrency or NFTs“. Therefore, users of the platform were elated to learn that the platform does not intend to introduce any form of micro-transactions to the platform.

The development comes days after Discord co-founder Jason Citron endured a severe backlash from crypto-sceptics when he posted a screenshot from an internal test version of the Discord app, hinting at a possible integration for Ethereum-based wallets. The main folks behind the popular chat/ community app Discord have had to put their crypto integration plans on hold as a result of the backlash, that went as far as some users threatening to end their Discord Nitro subscriptions.

Mastodon was founded in 2016 by a German coder named Eugen Rochko. It’s among a wave of social media projects that have sprung up in the last several years as alternatives to Twitter and Facebook, which have long drawn complaints about polarised discourse, harassment, inconsistent moderation, and a business model of selling user data to advertisers.

What sets Mastodon apart is that it serves as a codebase that anyone can use to create their own social media network. As such, Mastodon includes thousands of independent online websites and servers called “instances”. Everyone logs onto the specific instance that they’re a part of via any of a number of compatible third-party apps.


Interested in cryptocurrency? We discuss all things crypto with WazirX CEO Nischal Shetty and WeekendInvesting founder Alok Jain on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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iQoo Z5 Cyber Grid Colour Variant Launched in India

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iQoo Z5 is getting a new finish called ‘Cyber Grid’ in India. The handset, which was launched in September this year, debuted in three colour options — Blue Origin, Dream Space, and Twilight Morning —in China. However, it arrived in two shades in India: Mystic Space and Arctic Dawn. The third Dream Space colour variant has now been unveiled as Cyber Grid in India. Key specifications of iQoo Z5 include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G chipset, 120Hz refresh rate, a triple rear camera setup, and a 5,000mAh battery with 44W flash charge support.

iQoo Z5 price in India, sale

iQoo Z5 Cyber Grid colour variant price is Rs. 23,990 for the 8GB RAM +128GB storage option and Rs. 26,990 for the 12GB RAM + 256GB storage model. The latest colour variant is up for grabs via iQoo’s website and Amazon starting today, November 15. As mentioned, the new model will sit alongside the Arctic Dawn and Mystic Space colour options that have already been available in India since the phone’s launch on September 27.

iQoo Z5 specifications

iQoo Z5 Cyber Grid colour version comes with the same specifications as other available colour variants. The handset works on Android 11-based Funtouch OS 11.1 and supports dual-SIM slots (Nano). iQoo Z5 sports a 6.67-inch full-HD+ (1,080×2,400 pixels) LCD display with up to 120Hz refresh rate, a 240Hz touch sampling rate, a 20:9 aspect ratio, DCI-P3 color gamut, and HDR 10 support. The screen is TUV Rheinland certified as well.

The phone is powered by an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G SoC coupled with up to 12GB LPDDR5 RAM and up to 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage. The iQoo Z5 packs a triple rear camera setup headlined by a 64-megapixel primary sensor with an 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle sensor and a 2-megapixel macro sensor. For selfies, the phone has a 16-megapixel sensor.

iQoo Z5 is equipped with a 5,000mAh battery with 44W Flash Charge fast-charging support. The phone includes a side-mounted fingerprint scanner and has Face Wake facial recognition as well. Connectivity options on the iQoo Z5 include USB Type-C port, Bluetooth v5.2, USB OTG support, tri-band Wi-Fi with 2.4GHz, 5.1GHz, and 5.8GHz bands, GPS, and a 3.5mm audio jack.


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ACT Fibernet Giving Additional Speed Benefits to Existing Customers

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ACT Fibernet has a new offer to provide additional speed benefits to all customers through November. Under the new offer, the Bengaluru-based Internet Service Provider (ISP) is providing speed upgrades of up to 500Mbps to its broadband users for free. Customers can avail the benefit of the speed upgrade directly through the ACT Fibernet app. The company offers a variety of plans for its optical fibre-based broadband service in cities including Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, and Hyderabad, among others.

To inform about the speed boost offer, ACT Fibernet has sent an email to its users across India. The company confirmed to Gadgets 360 that the offer is applicable to all ACT Fibernet customers and is valid until November 30.

act fibernet speed boost offer image gadgets 360 ACT Fibernet

ACT Fibernet is giving additional speed benefits to its existing customers

 

Under the offer, if a customer‘s plan speed is less than 100Mbps, they are eligible to boost their speed to 100Mbps. The speed will be upgraded to 300Mbps if a customer has greater than 100Mbps, but less than 300Mbps. And for users who have greater than 300Mbps but less than 500Mbps plan speeds, they will be upgraded to 500Mbps.

You can avail the speed boost benefit by logging on to the ACT Fibernet app. A banner showing the offer has been featured on the home screen of the app where you need to tap to get the additional speed.

Last year, ACT Fibernet offered a similar speed boost upgrade to support the beginning of work from home for many of its users — due to the national lockdown owing to the coronavirus pandemic. The operator also later increased the rental for its broadband plans in eight cities including Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Delhi.

ACT Fibernet also recently upgraded its two existing broadband plans with up to 300Mbps speeds and started offering higher fair usage policy (FUP) limits in Bengaluru to take on Airtel and Jio Fiber in the capital city.


This week on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast, we discuss iPhone 13, new iPad and iPad mini, and Apple Watch Series 7 — and what they mean to the Indian market. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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Samsung Rolls Out Android 12-Based One UI 4 for Galaxy S21 Series

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Samsung on Monday announced that it has started rolling out One UI 4 on Galaxy S21 series smartphones, which includes Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21+ and Galaxy S21 Ultra. It claims that the update will offer users new customisation options, privacy features, and an overall “elevated mobile experience”. The update is based on Android 12 and will be rolled out to other smartphone models in the coming months. Additionally, the South Korean company also rolled out an update for the Galaxy Watch series smartwatches.

Samsung One UI 4 availability

As per the announcement by Samsung, the One UI 4 update is available for Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21+ and Galaxy S21 Ultra smartphones. Samsung sys it will soon become available on older Galaxy S series (Galaxy S20 and Galaxy S10 series), Galaxy Note series (Galaxy Note 20 and Galaxy Note 10 series), Galaxy Z series, Galaxy A series and Galaxy Tab S7 series tablets. “We are committed to giving everyone access to the best mobile experiences possible, as soon as possible,” said Janghyun Yoon, Executive Vice President and Head of Software Platform Team at Mobile Communications Business, Samsung Electronics.

As far as the update on Galaxy Watch series is concerned, it will be available to Galaxy Watch, Galaxy Watch Active, Galaxy Watch Active 2 and Galaxy Watch 3 starting today.

samsung One UI 4 release intext image Software update

Software update on Samsung Galaxy Watch series is available today
Photo Credit: Samsung

Samsung One UI 4 features

Samsung released the Android 12-based public beta of the One UI 4 update in September adding new themes, colour pallets, and privacy settings.

The stable update rolling out now brings more customisation options with a new set of Color Palettes, allowing users to change the look and feel of the home screen icons, menu, button, and background. It gets new widgets and a wider variety of emoji features, GIFs, and stickers on the keyboard. Samsung One UI 4 privacy features include alerts when an app attempts to access the camera or microphone, a new privacy dashboard for settings, as well as controls for easy monitoring. The update also extends seamless support to third-party apps and services.

Meanwhile, Samsung allegedly posted and then removed a notice highlighting rollout schedule for One UI 4 on its smartphones. Tipster Tron (@FrontTron) posted an image which is claimed to be a translation of the now-deleted official notice in Samsung Members. As per the notice, a few phones belonging to Galaxy Z series, Galaxy S20 series, and Galaxy Note 20 series will get the update in December. Samsung Galaxy S10 series, Galaxy Note 10 series and older foldables may get the update in January, followed by tablets in February.




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Apple AirPods (3rd Gen) Review

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Apple’s AirPods have had a huge role to play in the personal audio segment, both technologically and culturally. While true wireless earphones did exist before the launch of the first-generation AirPods in late 2016, Apple’s product undeniably popularised the form factor the world over. The success of Airpods inspired many brands to dive into the fledgling product segment and even draw ideas from its iconic design. Today, while there are plenty of true wireless options from many brands, the AirPods continue to stand out for their recognisable design and styling.

Apple recently launched the AirPods (3rd Gen), priced at Rs. 18,500 in India. Although this headset is the successor to the AirPods (2nd Gen), it features a completely reworked design that is very similar to that of the Rs. 24,900 AirPods Pro. However, it lacks some of the features that set the company’s flagship headset apart. Is the Apple AirPods (3rd Gen) the best true wireless headset you can buy under Rs. 20,000, and just how well does it work? Find out in this review.

apple airpods 3rd gen review main Apple

Like the rest of Apple’s true wireless range, the AirPods (3rd Gen) is available in just a single colour – white

 

MagSafe charging case for the Apple AirPods (3rd Gen)

With the third generation, Apple has adopted a new design for the AirPods, taking inspiration from the AirPods Pro. The stems of the earpieces are shorter, and there is now a force-touch button on each earpiece for controls, similar to that of the Pro headset. However, unlike the Pro which has silicone ear tips for a more secure and noise isolating fit, the AirPods (3rd Gen) have the same outer-ear fit as the original AirPods.

The AirPods (3rd Gen)’s earpieces are also bigger than those of the non-Pro AirPods, and have wider grilles. As a result, the fit is more secure than that of the AirPods (2nd Gen), but not as secure and noise isolating as that of the AirPods Pro.

I could hear plenty of ambient sound when wearing the new AirPods, and this is by design, to make them suitable for outdoor use. As has become the norm for true wireless earphones from Apple, the AirPods (3rd Gen) is available only in white. The earpieces and charging case are IPX4 rated for water resistance, and will be able to handle light sprinkles of water and sweat.

A big change is the addition of force-touch controls on the Apple AirPods (3rd Gen). Unlike the less precise touch controls on the first- and second-gen AirPods, force-touch requires a very deliberate gesture similar to pressing a button, and feedback from the headset also makes you feel as though these are mechanical buttons, even though they aren’t.

The controls allow you to play and pause music, skip to the next or previous track, and answer calls, as well as invoke Siri without using your smartphone. Although you can’t control volume directly from the headset, you can use Siri voice commands to adjust it.

The charging case of the Apple AirPods (3rd Gen) is shorter and wider than that of the 2nd Gen variant, to accommodate the shape of the new earpieces. The Lightning port for charging is at the bottom, the pairing button is at the back, and the indicator light is on the front. The case supports Qi wireless charging with MagSafe compatibility for supported accessories.

apple airpods 3rd gen review in hand Apple

The Apple AirPods (3rd Gen) has an outer-ear fit; there are no silicone ear tips as on the AirPods Pro

 

Apple continues to use Bluetooth 5 and the AAC Bluetooth codec as the default option when paired with Apple source devices, although there is also SBC codec support. The AirPods (3rd Gen) uses Apple’s in-house H1 chip, which allows for fast pairing and makes connectivity work well with other Apple devices. There is also a skin detection sensor, which lets the headset know when it’s in your ears to control the automatic playback and pause functions. There’s no active noise cancellation on the AirPods (3rd Gen), and the sales package includes only a USB Type-C to Lightning charging cable.

Battery life on the Apple AirPods (3rd Gen) is better than on the 2nd Gen or Pro models; I was able to get a little over 5 hours of usage time on the earpieces with both music and calls. The charging case holds enough power to charge the earpieces four times over, giving me a total battery life of around 25-26 hours per charge cycle. This is pretty good given the feature set of the AirPods (3rd Gen).

Spatial Audio and full-fledged Siri on the AirPods (3rd Gen)

Apple introduced Spatial Audio with Apple TV, and rolled it out for Apple Music in mid-2021. The AirPods (3rd Gen), like the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max, supports Spatial Audio, along with head-tracking for supported services.

The Siri voice assistant is also supported on the AirPods (3rd Gen), with the option to enable the hands-free ‘Hey Siri’ wake phrase. This works just as it would on an iPhone or HomePod, although the headset does need the paired with an iPhone, iPad, or Mac to be connected to the Internet. Siri can read out incoming notifications, adjust volume and control playback, fetch specific content, call contacts, and more, directly from the headset without so much as touching the source device, and all of this worked as expected for me.

Other key features include Apple’s quick pairing and setup, which detects the AirPods (3rd Gen) and links it to your Apple ID, so you can automatically pair and quickly switch between your other Apple devices. This also allows for enhanced functionality with the Find My app on iOS. The Find My functionality includes local tracking and notifications when the headset is left behind – similar to what you get with an Apple AirTag.

You can, of course, pair the AirPods (3rd Gen) with other devices such as Android phones using standard Bluetooth. However, the enhanced features that you get when using the headset with Apple devices won’t be available.

Good sound, but poor noise isolation on the Apple AirPods (3rd Gen)

This generational change for the AirPods goes far beyond just design; the AirPods (3rd Gen) have some key features from the AirPods Pro that set it apart from the 2nd Gen model. These include Adaptive EQ, the company’s custom high-excursion drivers and high dynamic range amplifier, and Spatial Audio support. All of these give the new AirPods a sound that is closer to that of the more expensive AirPods Pro, albeit without active noise cancellation.

apple airpods 3rd gen review iphone Apple

To unlock the entire feature set of the AirPods (3rd Gen), you’ll need an iOS device

 

The lack of ANC is both a benefit and a drawback on the AirPods (3rd Gen); the actual audio signal is ‘unadulterated’, so to speak, but at the same time, you’re hearing plenty of ambient sound along with music which could hamper the listening experience. That said, the earphones are loud and clean enough to make for a decent listening experience even in somewhat noisy environments.

Apple’s Adaptive EQ feature – also seen on the more expensive AirPods Pro and AirPods Max – is present on the AirPods (3rd Gen), aided by microphones on the insides of the earpieces that allow for automatic equaliser adjustment according to the shape of the user’s ears. Indeed, I found the sound to be more similar to that of the AirPods Pro than the second-generation AirPods; the sonic signature seemed to be able to adjust itself to various genres and tracks on the fly.

Starting with Snitch by Netsky and Aloe Blacc, the Apple AirPods (3rd Gen) made for a sound that was immediately engaging and well calibrated for the track, giving every part of the frequency range its due attention. The start of the track was detailed, with Aloe Blacc’s vocals sounding sharp and clear. This punchy, synthesised electronic track sounded impressive, with the AirPods (3rd Gen) flowing through it almost intuitively.

More aggressive and faster tracks such as Holdin’ On (Skrillex and Nero Remix) by Monsta sounded cohesive and attacking, with the AirPods (3rd Gen) managing to keep up with the constant change in pace in the track, switching between the gentler vocals and aggressive bass. With the slower and more refined Truth by Kamasi Washington, the earphones managed to bring out the detail in the jazz instruments, while slowly and calculatingly adjusting to the subtle changes in pace and tone.

apple airpods 3rd gen review earpieces 2 Apple

Adaptive EQ and good tuning make the AirPods (3rd Gen) sound good, but the lack of noise isolation does hold the experience back a bit

 

Performance was also pretty good with the speech-only audio of audiobooks, although I did need to turn the volume up to almost the maximum level when outdoors to overpower ambient sounds. On the whole, the Apple AirPods (3rd Gen) makes for an engaging listening experience, and is able to tailor itself to the genre and track in play. The sound is just about as good as on the AirPods Pro, but obviously slightly different because of the lack of active noise cancellation and the ability to hear a fair amount of what’s going on in the background.

Although Spatial Audio with support for Dolby Atmos and head tracking isn’t new to even the AirPods range, it’s become much more relevant since it came to Apple Music in mid-2021. The AirPods (3rd Gen) supports all of these features of Apple TV and Apple Music when used with a compatible source device.

Dolby Atmos and Spatial Audio performance is as good as on the AirPods Pro, with the earphones able to simulate a surround sound experience despite the obvious limitations of two-channel audio. Head tracking is impressive as well; turning my head when listening to certain tracks resulted in the music “staying in place” as it were; the vocals in Dolby Atmos-enabled tracks usually sounded like they were originating from the direction of the source device, even if my head was facing a different direction.

Apple has its own way of reducing wind and other ambient sounds when on calls, using an acoustic mesh around the microphones. Although it’s hard to tell just how much of a difference this is making to the overall experience, I did have good experiences with calls on the AirPods (3rd Gen) both indoors and outdoors. Still, the lack of active noise cancellation and noise isolation did significantly affect my ability to concentrate on calls if I wasn’t in a quiet space.

There is also support for a new AAC-ELD codec, which is said to improve voice performance on FaceTime calls. I didn’t particularly notice any difference from before, though.

Verdict

Priced at Rs. 18,500 in India, the Apple AirPods (3rd Gen) is an expensive pair of true wireless earphones, given that there’s no active noise cancellation. However, in all other ways, this is a good pair of earphones. It works very well with Apple devices and accessories, sounds good, and offers an all-round usage experience that is tailored around iOS, Siri, and Apple Music. Although naturally not quite as good as the AirPods Pro, this is the next best option, particularly if you have a budget of less than Rs. 20,000.

Several competing options at around this price and even lower offer better passive noise isolation (unless you prefer an outer-ear fit) and active noise cancellation, but the AirPods (3rd Gen) is designed to work well within the Apple ecosystem. If you have an iPhone, iPad, or Mac, you’ll want to consider the AirPods (3rd Gen) over options from competing brands, purely for how well they work together. That said, with the AirPods Pro discounted heavily when on sale, you might be able to buy that at just a slightly higher price than that of the AirPods (3rd Gen).


This week on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast, we discuss iPhone 13, new iPad and iPad mini, and Apple Watch Series 7 — and what they mean to the Indian market. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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