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The iPhone SE was the best phone Apple ever made, and now it's dead

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I only wanted one thing out of 2018’s iPhone event: a new iPhone SE. In failing to provide it Apple seems to have quietly put the model out to pasture — and for this I curse them eternally. Because it was the best phone the company ever made.

If you were one of the many who passed over the SE back in 2015, when it made its debut, that’s understandable. The iPhone 6S was the latest and greatest, and of course fixed a few of the problems Apple had kindly introduced with the entirely new design of the 6. But for me the SE was a perfect match.

See, I’ve always loved the iPhone design that began with the 4. That storied phone is perhaps best remembered for being left in a bar ahead of release and leaked by Gizmodo — which is too bad, because for once the product was worthy of the lavish unveiling Apple now bestows on every device it puts out.

The 4 established an entirely new industrial design aesthetic that was at once instantly recognizable and highly practical. Gone were the smooth, rounded edges and back of the stainless original iPhone (probably the second-best phone Apple made) and the jellybean-esque 3G and 3GS.

In the place of those soft curves were hard lines and uncompromising geometry: a belt of metal running around the edge, set off from the glass sides by the slightest of steps. It highlighted and set off the black glass of the screen and bezel, producing a of specular outline from any angle.

The camera was flush and the home button (RIP) sub-flush, entirely contained within the body, making the device perfectly flat both front and back. Meanwhile the side buttons boldly stood out. Volume in bold, etched circles; the mute switch easy to find but impossible to accidentally activate; the power button perfectly placed for a reaching index finger. Note that all these features are directly pointed at usability: making things easier, better, more accessible, while also being attractive and cohesive as parts of a single object.

Compared to the iPhone 4, every single other phone, including Samsung’s new “iPhone killer” Galaxy S, was a cheap-looking mess of plastic, incoherently designed or at best workmanlike. And don’t think I’m speaking as an Apple fanboy; I was not an iPhone user at the time. In fact, I was probably still using my beloved G1 — talk about beauty and the beast!

The design was strong enough that it survived the initially awkward transition to a longer screen in the 5, and with that generation it also gained the improved rear side that alleviated the phone’s unfortunate tendency towards… well, shattering.

The two-tone grey iPhone 5S, however, essentially left no room for improvement. And after 4 years, it was admittedly perhaps time to freshen things up a bit. Unfortunately, what Apple ended up doing was subtracting all personality from the device while adding nothing but screen space.

The 6 was, to me, simply ugly. It was reminiscent of the plethora of boring Android phones at the time — merely higher quality than them, not different. The 6S was similarly ugly, and the 7 through 8 somehow further banished any design that set themselves apart, while reversing course on some practical measures in allowing an increasingly large camera bump and losing the headphone jack. The X, at least, looked a bit different.

But to return to the topic at hand, it was after the 6S that Apple had introduced the SE. Although it nominally stood for “Special Edition,” the name was also a nod to the Macintosh SE. Ironically given the original meaning of “System Expansion,” the new SE was the opposite: essentially an iPhone 6S in the body of a 5S, complete with improved camera, Touch ID sensor, and processor. The move was likely intended as a sort of lifeboat for users who still couldn’t bring themselves to switch to the drastically redesigned, and considerably larger, new model.

It would take time, Apple seems to have reasoned, to convert these people, the types who rarely buy first generation Apple products and cherish usability over novelty. So why not coddle them a bit through this difficult transition?

The SE appealed not just to the nostalgic and neophobic, but simply people who prefer a smaller phone. I don’t have particularly large or small hands, but I preferred this highly pocketable, proven design to the new one for a number of reasons.

Flush camera so it doesn’t get scratched up? Check. Normal, pressable home button? Check. Flat, symmetrical design? Check. Actual edges to hold onto? Check. Thousands of cases already available? Check — although I didn’t use one for a long time. The SE is best without one.

At the time, the iPhone SE was more compact and better looking than anything Apple offered, while making almost no compromises at all in terms of functionality. The only possible objection was its size, and that was (and is) a matter of taste.

It was the best object Apple ever designed, filled with the best tech it had ever developed. It was the best phone it ever made.

And the best phone it’s made since then, too, if you ask me. Ever since the 6, it seems to me that Apple has only drifted, casting about for something to captivate its users the way the iPhone 4’s design and new graphical capabilities did, all the way back in 2010. It honed that design to a cutting edge and then, when everyone expected the company to leap forward, it tiptoed instead, perhaps afraid to spook the golden goose.

To me the SE was Apple allowing itself one last victory lap on the back of a design it would never surpass. It’s understandable that it would not want to admit, this many years on, that anyone could possibly prefer something it created nearly a decade ago to its thousand-dollar flagship — a device, I feel I must add, that not only compromises visibly in its design (I’ll never own a notched phone if I can help it) but backpedals on practical features used by millions, like Touch ID and a 3.5mm headphone jack. This is in keeping with similarly user-unfriendly choices made elsewhere in its lineup.

So while I am disappointed in Apple, I’m not surprised. After all, it’s disappointed me for years. But I still have my SE, and I intend to keep it for as long as possible. Because it’s the best thing the company ever made, and it’s still a hell of a phone.

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Alexa, are you everywhere?

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What’s the next big technology? We have asked this question to many tech players over the last few months and the response from some of them have been: “Keeping users connected, right from home to office to wherever you go.” So, you can start playing an album at home, continue on the way to office and then carry on in office. Amazon is getting there.

The new trillion-dollar company after Apple, Amazon announced in Seattle on Thursday the new Alexa-enabled devices and upgrades that highlight how seriously it’s taking the smart home concept and how slow other companies are moving.

“We’ve always in our design group focused on products that sort of disappear into the background. We don’t think of them as showpieces or pieces of furniture, but as we’ve had more and more devices in the home, we’ve discovered that people do put them in lots of different rooms, lots of different decors, so we wanted to make them fit in more there and disappear,” Dave Limp, head of Amazon’s devices business, said on Thursday.

Second-gen Echo Plus

Second-gen Echo Plus: The device is meant to be the centrepiece of one’s smart home experience. Besides the voice-activated Alexa smarts of other Echo products, it acts as the hub to communicate with a number of home gears. The updated version adds a larger, three-inch neo-dymium woofer and increased back volume, giving a stronger bass and clearer mid and high tones. Now in fabric design, it also has a temperature sensor, which allows users to take action. If the temperature in your bedroom has gone up, Alexa can send a notification to turn on the fan or the air conditioner.

Second-gen Echo Show
Second-gen Echo Show

Second-gen Echo Show: The device got a redesign with a larger, 10inch (25cm) full-HD screen and better audio for which there are now two side-firing two-inch drivers, a passive bass radiator and Dolby processing. The device now has an eight-mic array. We want this in India!

AmazonBasics Microwave
AmazonBasics Microwave

AmazonBasics Microwave: That’s right, a microwave that comes with a built-in Ask Alexa button. It doesn’t have Alexa built directly into the appliance but it wirelessly connects to another Alexa device in your kitchen to take commands. Give a command like “one minute” to get the timer going. Also, it has a Dash Replenishment service, which means you can automatically order certain kinds of food, like popcorn, if you’re running low on supply.

Echo Sub
Echo Sub

Echo Sub: It’s a speaker that can be paired with Echo or other compatible devices. The equaliser feature lets you adjust the bass, mid-range, and treble of the pairing simply by using your voice. Just say, “Alexa, turn up the bass.”

Amazon Echo Auto
Amazon Echo Auto

Amazon Echo Auto: The answer to Google’s Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay. This is a small device that attaches to the dashboard and responds to questions just like it would at home. In short, it’s an in-car accessory that allows you to integrate Alexa into your car. The device connects through your existing smartphone plan and the Alexa app.

What about India?

Not all of the devices announced will be available in India. Here’s what you can buy at the moment — the all-new Echo Dot will retail for Rs 4,499, the new Echo Plus will retail for 14,999 and the Echo Sub is priced at

Rs 12,999. The Echo devices are available for pre-order on Amazon.in. The Dot and Plus will start shipping in October, while Echo Sub will be available later this year.

Ring Stick Up Cam
Ring Stick Up Cam

Ring Stick Up Cam: As the name suggests, it’s a security camera designed to keep your home safe. There are two versions of the device — a wired one and a battery-powered one. This news follows Amazon’s acquisition of Ring earlier this year for reportedly more than

$1 billion. In the future, Dave Limp said, Ring’s Stick Up Cams will also work with Alexa.

Alexa Smart plug
Alexa Smart plug

Alexa Smart plug: Attach it to an electrical conduit, plug in an appliance (a light or coffee maker) and turn the device on or off with your voice. It does not require a smart home hub.

Echo Wall Clock
Echo Wall Clock

Echo Wall Clock: Usually products are kept under wraps until the launch but at the event in Seattle, the Clock was out there but nobody noticed! It’s an analogue clock with Bluetooth to connect to an existing Echo device. You can use it to set timers, alarms and reminders. Since the Clock connects with Alexa, it sets its own time. 

Echo Input
Echo Input

Echo Input: This is a speaker-less audio input which plugs (or pairs) into an existing speaker to turn it into an Echo. The pancake-looking device includes far-field microphones and it delivers Alexa to an audio set-up that’s already in your home. It’s basically a more powerful answer to Google’s Chromecast Audio.

Echo Link
Echo Link

Echo Link: It connects to your existing stereo equipment, turning your legacy sound system into an Alexa-powered music station. There is also the Link Amp which comes with a 60-watt stereo amplifier inside. 

Third-gen Echo Dot
Third-gen Echo Dot

Third-gen Echo Dot: The popular budget Echo Dot device received an upgrade, making it 70-75 per cent louder than its predecessor and it comes with a fabric exterior, available in three colour options — charcoal, heather grey and sandstone. Dot is one of the most popular Echo devices — thanks to its easy set-up process — which fits into any part of the home.

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This week's top stories: Pixel 3 & OnePlus 6T leaks, Google Home Hub, Android 9 Pie for Samsung, more

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In this week’s top stories: More Pixel 3 leaks show off Google’s new phone and its accessories, Google’s upcoming first-party smart display breaks cover, we talk October releases, the iPhone XS camera, and so much more…


The best gifts for Android users

As usual, Pixel leaks have dominated the news cycle this week with several new looks at Google’s plans. We got some new images of the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL in official Google cases, as well as some new close-up looks at the phone which gave us some new camera details. We also reported on a potential first look of Google’s “Pixel Stand” charging dock.

Following the first reviews of Apple’s iPhone XS hitting the web this week, we noticed a pattern of reviewers praising Apple’s new smart camera, but still claiming Google’s Pixel 2 did just as good, if not better. Not too bad for a year-old device, huh?

Since their debut, the stand-out feature of Google’s Pixel smartphones has been the camera. Google has remained at the front of the race with its Pixel 2 line of devices, but this month Apple tried to challenge the champ with some major improvements on its new iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. Now that the iPhone XS reviews are in, it looks like Google is still ahead of the curve…

Another huge story this week was our first look at the Google Home Hub. Our first look at the device leaked, even revealing many of the key specifications for the device. Shockingly, it may even undercut the rest of the smart display market with a crazy $149 price tag.

More details on the OnePlus 6T also hit the web this week thanks to a leaked render. While the render only shows us a small portion of the device, it does confirm a few details such as the removal of the rear fingerprint sensor and the dual-camera array.

This first render only shows us the top third of the phone, but even that little bit confirms some interesting details… we can basically confirm that this phone will still offer dual cameras. Rumors started floating around a few weeks ago that the OnePlus 6T would offer three cameras, but this render can put those rumors to rest. Another tidbit is that the rear fingerprint sensor is gone.

After a couple months of Android 9 Pie being available on Google’s Pixel devices, an early build of Samsung’s take on the latest update also leaked out. The company’s design makes some major changes to the look of the platform, but this early build definitely still has some bugs.

Android 9 Pie has been out for a little over a month so far, but outside of GoogleOnePlus, and Essential, there haven’t been many updates. This week, we’re getting our first look at Samsung’s take on Pie on the Galaxy S9+ and, well, a whole lot has changed…

Our own Damien Wilde also took a closer look at two new devices this week with full reviews of the Huawei Y9 and the Moto E5 series.

Kyle Bradshaw also took a first look at an early build of the Chromium browser on Google’s Fuschia OS.

Google has long been at work trying to get their Chromium web browser up and running on their upcoming, work-in-progress Fuchsia operating system. We now get to see the first fruits of that effort, with a hands-on look at Chromium for Fuchsia.

The rest of this week’s top stories follow:

Android |

Google |

Chrome |

Apps & Updates |

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Nintendo Gives Terminal Cancer Patient The Chance To Play Smash Bros. Ultimate

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Last weekend, we reported on a young man named Chris Taylor with terminal cancer, who made the decision in July to decline further treatment. With an estimated three to six months left to live, his last wish was to play Nintendo’s recently announced game, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

Taylor’s comments on social media gained traction on websites like Reddit and the video game community started a campaign to help him gain access to a pre-release version of Smash. Not long after this, his wish came true, when Nintendo arrived at his house with a copy of the E3 demo of Ultimate.

Below are some photos from the man himself showing the special moment:

It’s great to see the video game community including a company like Nintendo get behind such a campaign. We hope Chris and his friends enjoyed their time with the new Smash Bros.

Note: Please be respectful in the comments.

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