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WatchOS 8's best new features: The Apple Watch tricks we're loving already in the beta – CNET

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Lexy Savvides/CNET

The Apple Watch is getting its annual face-lift with WatchOS 8. Expect extra workout modes, more flexible messaging tools and a portrait watch face, among other new features. Apple just released the public beta of WatchOS 8, which gives us a sneak peek at the operating system that will be released in the fall. While there are no big interface surprises in the new OS, Apple has refined the Watch experience to bring many features in line with iOS on the iPhone.

Read more: Apple Watch SE vs Series 6 vs. Series 3: How to choose?

WatchOS 8 will run on all Apple Watches starting with the Series 3 and later. We don’t recommend installing any beta software on your primary device, but if you do want to preview the new features coming to iOS 15 and WatchOS 8, you can find out how to download them here.

Here are the best new Apple Watch features we’ve found so far.

WatchOS 8 puts portrait photos on your wrist

The new Portraits watch face can use any portrait mode photo taken on the iPhone. But rather than displaying a static image, the watch uses segmentation data from the photo to separate the foreground from the background. This means the time appears just behind the head of your subject and if you raise your wrist or like to fidget with the Digital Crown, the subject pops in and out, too.

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Lexy Savvides/CNET

I’ve found it works best with photos that have a lot of distance between the foreground and background, plus ample headroom above your subject so you can really see the effect. Some complications are also supported, so you can put elements like battery level or heart rate on the watch face as well.

The Photos app itself gets some new tools like surfacing your memories and featured photos, so new content is synced with the Watch daily. Plus you can now share photos straight from the Watch via Messages or the Mail app.

AssistiveTouch is a mind-blowing accessibility feature

Apple announced AssistiveTouch in May along with a range of accessibility features for the iPhone and iPad.

It lets people who have the use of only one arm control the Apple Watch by detecting movement in the hand and wrist, like pinching or clenching actions. So you don’t need to be able to touch the screen to interact with the watch.

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Lexy Savvides/CNET

It’s difficult to describe how intuitive this feels until you use it. Pinch your thumb and forefinger and the watch will move the focus to navigate through menu options. A double pinch moves back, while a clench is a tap action to select something on the screen. AssistiveTouch is also customizable, so you could set a double-clench action to answer a call or bring up the action menu.

Better messaging tools

When you go to send a message, you’ll now be able to use the scribble tool, the emoji selector or the dictation option all from the same screen. Plus, if you go to dictate a message but find it makes an error in the transcription, you’ll now be able to select the word and use the Digital Crown to make corrections. It’s something I appreciate as my Australian accent often results in some pretty amusing dictation errors.

Just like on the iPhone, you can send a GIF by selecting the magnifying glass icon and either choosing from the trending list or searching for the GIF you want.

New apps coming to WatchOS

The Contacts app is finally available on your wrist so you can edit, add, browse and share without pulling out your phone. Apple has also split its Find My app into two new apps: Find Items and Find Devices. They do exactly what they say on the tin and you can ping items like the AirTag, or find devices signed in with your Apple ID from the Watch.

WatchOS 8 also works in conjunction with the Focus mode on the iPhone, so you can limit distractions coming through or customize modes so only notifications from certain contacts and apps break through. Once you apply the mode on the iPhone it automatically sets it on the Watch as well. It’s also supposed to be smart about Focus suggestions, like prompting you to turn on the mode when you start a workout. I’ll need to spend more time with the beta before it can pick up my usage patterns.

Two new workout options — and Mindfulness

There are two new workout types you can track: Pilates and tai chi. They use customized heart rate and motion algorithms to better determine your effort than if you traced these workouts using the Other option in the workouts app. Apple’s Fitness Plus also gets a picture-in-picture mode, plus additional workout filters.

Apple has also moved the Breathe app into a new Mindfulness app. In addition to animations to help guide your breathing, there’s a Reflect app that gives prompts to help focus your thoughts. I really like the new animations in the Mindfulness app and in the short time I’ve used them, they do help to focus my attention. The time you spend reflecting appears in the Health app on the iPhone (along with your heart rate) after each session.

Sleep tracking also adds respiration rate to the existing sleep metrics like heart rate and time asleep. You can also view trends over time in the Health app on the iPhone.

More features to come in the Wallet app

Apple is hoping you’ll ditch your physical wallet altogether and access everything from your wrist. Later in the year, iOS 15 and WatchOS 8 will be able to store a digital identity card like a driver’s license in the Wallet app. Access keys for hotels and offices can also be held digitally.

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You can now digitize and store your driver’s license in Apple’s Wallet app.


Apple

The Apple Watch Series 6 will support ultra wideband or UWB for car keys so you can unlock your vehicle or start it remotely, without needing to touch or tap anything on the Apple Watch. It does depend on the vehicle manufacturer and it will also roll out later in the year.

We’ll update this story as we uncover more of the best features in the WatchOS 8 public beta.

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Dead Space Remake Officially Announced at EA Play – CGMagazine

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After weeks of different rumors and leaks, the Dead Space remake was officially confirmed at EA Play 2021.

The Dead Space remake wasn’t given any kind of release window, but it is in development for next-gen systems only, meaning PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC. The game is being built with the Frostbite Engine and is handled by EA Motive, who is best known as the developer of the recent Star Wars Squadrons. The original trilogy was developed by Visceral Games, which was shuttered by EA in 2017.

The announcement didn’t show much at all but presented fans with a short teaser trailer showing a grisly space station as the iconic sounds of Necromorphs echoed in the background. As the camera zooms in Isaac Clarke’s backpack lights up and reveals the words Dead Space. A press release from EA says fans will “experience an improved story, characters, gameplay mechanics.” Phillippe Ducharme, Senior Producer of Dead Space, says the team at Motive has invited fans to give their feedback on the remake ever since the early days of development. With that in mind, it’s not exactly clear how far along in development the Dead Space remake actually is. You can watch the reveal trailer yourself down below.

One of the most prolific survival-horror series of all time, it’s been eight years since the release of the last game in the series, Dead Space 3. The franchise was always known for its nail-biting horror and inventive combat, requiring players to hack off the limbs of enemies in order to both slow them down and kill them. Here’s EA’s description of the first game and remake,

“In Dead Space, Isaac Clarke is an everyman engineer on a mission to repair a vast, sprawling starship, the USG Ishimura, only to discover something has gone horribly wrong. The ship’s crew has been slaughtered and infected by some alien scourge…and Isaac’s beloved partner, Nicole, is lost somewhere on board. Now Isaac is alone with only his tools and engineering skills as he attempts to uncover the nightmarish mystery of what happened aboard the Ishimura. Trapped with hostile creatures called “necromorphs”, Isaac faces a battle for survival, not only against the escalating terrors of the ship, but his own crumbling sanity.”

While Dead Space is coming back, Glen Schofield former executive producer of the series, has gone on to make a brand new sci-fi horror game called The Callisto Protocol.

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OnePlus Nord 2: An impressive 5G phone at an affordable price – CNET

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The OnePlus Nord 2, also called the “flagship killer,” has some impressive specs and performs well all round. 


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

OnePlus calls its brand new Nord 2 the “flagship killer,” and I get why. This phone has impressive specs, performs well and when paired with a reasonable starting price (only £399 here in the UK), it’s designed to offer everything you’d need from a phone without emptying your bank account. A powerful processor, a solid dual rear camera setup, 5G connectivity, super fast charging — and it’s not bad to look at either. 

Read more: OnePlus Nord 2 vs. Nord vs. Nord CE vs. OnePlus 9: Comparing OnePlus’ latest phones

Like the previous Nord — and the cheaper Nord CE, launched just a few weeks back — the Nord 2 will not be on sale in the US. It’s destined for the UK and wider Europe, where it’ll cost £399 for the version with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage or £469 with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. For reference, £399 converts to about $540 or AU$740.

But no, it doesn’t really “kill” any flagships. It’s not as powerful as a “true” flagship like the iPhone 12 Pro Max or S21 Ultra, nor will its camera skills attract the world’s most demanding photographers. The flagship that I feel is most at risk is OnePlus’s own 9 series, which shares many features with the Nord 2, yet has a much higher starting price of £629 ($729). 

I’ve spent a short amount of time with the Nord 2 ahead of its unveiling, and here are the five things I like most about it.

A powerful MediaTek processor 

OnePlus has typically used Qualcomm’s Snapdragon line of processors for its phones but it went with MediaTek’s Dimensity 1200-AI chip for the Nord 2. You’ll notice absolutely no difference in use — it’s the same as any other Android phone — but you will notice that it’s surprisingly powerful for the price. 

While it’s not up there with the iPhone 12 Pro Max in terms of benchmarks, it did beat the Pixel 5 and wasn’t far below the more expensive OnePlus 9. It’s certainly powerful enough for gaming, photo editing and video streaming and navigating around the Android 11 interface is smooth and stutter free.

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The OnePlus Nord 2 houses a powerful processor, a dual rear camera setup, 5G connectivity and super fast charging. 


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Android 11 software

The Nord 2 runs Android 11 at its core, over which OnePlus has slapped its usual Oxygen software. I really like OnePlus’s software as it’s neat, easy to use and doesn’t try and load the phone up with too many bundled services and bloatware. As a result, the phone remains nippy and trouble-free for longer.

It’s particularly important on lower and midrange phones that might not cope as well with being bogged down by services. The result here is a phone with smooth performance that I expect to remain for some time to come. 

OnePlus says it’s guaranteed to get at least two years of Android upgrades — so an update to Android 12 this fall and Android 13 next year is a given — with an additional year of security updates after that. 

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The OnePlus Nord 2 runs Android 11 software. 


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Incredible fast charging

The Nord 2 has the same 65-watt fast charging seen on the OnePlus 9 series and it’s amazing. It’ll take the phone from empty to full in only about 30 minutes, which makes it amazing for giving it a quick boost before you head out from home. The 4,500-mAh battery should still give you a day of use from a charge, but when you can recharge so quickly, battery life becomes somewhat less of an issue.

Even better is that a 65-watt fast charger comes in the box, so you don’t need to scour Amazon for one. What the phone doesn’t have is wireless charging, but I don’t see that as a particular problem. 

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The OnePlus Nord 2 has the speedy charging with 65-watt support.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Vibrant, sharp display

The Nord 2’s display measures 6.43 inches and boasts a resolution of 2,400×1,080 pixels, which is sufficient to make tiny text look nice and sharp. It’s an AMOLED panel, making it extremely vibrant too: great for videos, photos or playing whatever colorful game is currently making the rounds on the Google Play Store.

It has a 90Hz refresh rate which is a touch lower than the 120Hz of the OnePlus 9 series, but I doubt you’d be able to tell any real difference in day-to-day use. It’s silky smooth when scrolling around the interface, but you can also turn it down to a more regular 60Hz, which will apparently help save battery life. 

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The main cameras on the OnePlus Nord 2 are a 50-megapixel lens combined with a 8-megapixel super-wide lens.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Decent rear cameras

We haven’t done our full suite of camera tests yet, but what we’ve seen from the cameras so far looks good. The main sensor is a 50-megapixel affair — the same one seen in the OnePlus 9’s ultrawide camera. Outdoor images look well-exposed, with plenty of detail and natural-looking colors. 

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OnePlus Nord 2 outdoor camera test, standard lens.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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OnePlus Nord 2 outdoor camera test, standard lens.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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OnePlus Nord 2 outdoor camera test, super-wide lens.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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OnePlus Nord 2 outdoor camera test, standard lens with 2x digital zoom.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The 8-megapixel super-wide lens is noticeably less detailed, but it too seems capable of capturing good-looking outdoor images. There’s an on-screen option for 2x zoom but there isn’t a zoom lens, so that 2x is based on digitally cropping the shot. Results still look good, but it’s worth keeping in mind that you won’t get maximum quality doing this. 

There’s also technically a 2-megapixel monochrome sensor, which is totally pointless in my opinion as a photographer. If you want good-looking black and white images, use the regular camera and apps like Adobe Lightroom or Snapseed to have full control over converting to mono. Frankly, I feel OnePlus could have pulled this out and lopped another 20 quid or so off the price. 

OnePlus Nord 2 specs

Display size, resolution, refresh rate 6.43-inch AMOLED, FHD+ (2,400×1,080 pixels), 90Hz
Pixel density 410ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 6.25×2.88×0.32 in.
Dimensions (Millimeters) 158.9×73.2×8.25 mm
Weight (Grams) 6.66 oz; 189g
Software Android 11
Camera 50MP (main),  8MP (wide-angle),  2MP (mono)
Front camera 32-megapixel
Video 4K
Processor MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI processor
Storage 128/256GB
RAM 8/12GB RAM
Fingerprint reader No
Battery 4,500 mAh
Price In-display
Connector USB-C
Headphone Jack No
Special features 5G-enabled, 65W fast charging, 90Hz, dual stereo speaker, face unlock
Price (USD) Approximately $540 (converted from UK price)
Price (GBP) £399
Price (AUD) Approximately AU$740

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OnePlus will add ‘optimized mode’ toggle in Oxygen OS 12 to address throttling – GSMArena.com news – GSMArena.com

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Following a performance vs optimization controversy this month, OnePlus has confirmed that it plans to address the debacle in the way that it should have done from the very beginning. A OnePlus employee confirmed through a OnePlus Forum thread that the Android skin will gain a toggle to enable/disable OnePlus’ performance optimization with an early build of Oxygen OS 12.

Earlier this month, OnePlus was delisted from benchmarking app Geekbench due to alleged performance manipulations. This sparked controversy and OnePlus was prompted to respond to the allegations. Although benchmarking apps were performing in line with what’s expected from the Snapdragon 888 chipset, the phones were throttling many other apps from using the chipset’s maximum capacity during use. Geekbench saw this as cheating and that’s what prompted the benchmark app to delist the OnePlus 9 Duo.

OnePlus gave its reasoning for this: Users offered feedback about both battery life and heat management for future OnePlus devices, and explained that it has “optimized” performance of these devices when using the most popular apps. OnePlus even went beyond and stated that today’s high-end chipsets are overkill for most apps. While they are right to an extent, further testing showed that the so-called battery savings were minutes at most and largely negligible.

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