We can hardly believe it, Google’s first foldable is finally here – and alongside it launched what may be the best Pixel a-series phone yet. What are your impressions of the two devices from this year’s Google I/O?
We’ll start with the Google Pixel Fold. This phone is already up on pre-order in the US for $1,800 and will be available only in a few other key markets – the UK, German and Japan, though that will happen at a future date.
This effectively means that the Google foldable has only one true competitor, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4 (well, soon it will be the Z Fold5). The Pixel Fold has a very similar internal display, but closes (gap-free) to just 12.1mm thickness, compared to the 14.2-15.8mm of the Samsung model.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4
It is much wider at 79.5 vs. 67.1mm, but that is because the 5.8” cover display has a squat 17.4:9 aspect ratio (instead of the extra tall 23.1:9 of the Samsung). The Google phone is also 20g heavier at 283g. The Pixel Fold also brings the same IPX8 water resistance as the Samsung, so the pricey phone is guarded against accidental spills.
The Pixel phone stands out with its zooming capabilities, it has a 5x periscope (112mm) with a 10.8MP sensor, compared to 3x tele (66mm) with a 10MP sensor on the Z Fold4. The main camera uses a surprisingly small 1/2” 48MP sensor with 0.8µm pixels (vs. 50MP 1.0µm).
Other key differences worth mentioning include the chipset, the Tensor G2 with built-in acceleration for Google’s algorithms and Google security vs. a Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1. Also, the Pixel Fold has a larger 4,821mAh battery (vs. 4,400mAh). It’s slow to charge, but it’s not like the Samsung is a speed demon.
Before you head to the poll, we should note that both phones cost $1,800 for a 256GB unit without any discounts and promos. Well, what do you think – has the Google Pixel Fold convinced you to make the jump to foldables?
The Google Pixel 7a is the first in the a-series phone with a high refresh rate screen (only 90Hz, but that’s as fast as the Pixel 7), the first with wireless charging support and the first to go above 12MP for its main camera. All that comes with at a cost.
The 7a is $500/€510/£450. For comparison, here are the launch prices of the Pixel 6a – $450/€460/£400. This means that the new model is more expensive than a Galaxy A54 ($450), the Poco F5 Pro (€480), the Xperia 10 V (€450) and plenty of other mid-rangers.
In India, the Pixel 7a avoided the price hike and goes for ₹44,000 (less with some early bird deals), which puts it on par with the OnePlus 11R (₹40,000).
Samsung Galaxy A54 • Xiaomi Poco F5 Pro • Sony Xperia 10 V • OnePlus 11R
Check out our hands-on review of the 7a. There is a lot to love about this phone but some downsides too, typical Google stuff, really. We mentioned the 90Hz refresh rate already, but the bezels could have been smaller (other than that, the display quality is great) and charging could have been faster.
It feels like there is isn’t much point in getting the Pixel 7, unless you get a really good deal on it. Do you agree? Or is the Pixel 7a the phone you’ve been waiting for?
iOS 17 beta 1 offers an overhauled Apple Translate app that is more straightforward and easy to use. The redesign is available on iPadOS 17, too.
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WWDC is our favorite time of the year for many reasons. Not only do we get to try out the upcoming major updates to Apple’s operating systems, but we also sometimes get fresh hardware releases. This time around, we witnessed the debut of Apple’s Vision Pro, some new Mac models, iOS 17, iPadOS 17, macOS Sonoma, and watchOS 10. And while the Cupertino firm has provided the public with a comprehensive list of what’s new in these releases, many additions remain undocumented publicly. For example, we have just discovered that iOS 17 beta 1 redesigns the built-in Apple Translate app. The new user interface offers more intuitive controls, making the application more straightforward and easy to use.
As our screenshots above reveal, Apple Translate on iOS 17 beta 1 (right) is cleaner than that on iOS 16 and earlier versions (left). The new design simplifies the entire section, making it both more intuitive to operate and easy on the eyes. As someone who tries to rely on Google services as little as possible, I had always found Apple Translate unintuitive to use when compared to its Google counterpart. Through the iOS 17 update, users finally get to enjoy a more direct app.
For example, Apple Translate on iOS 16 continues to shift between the two selected languages, making it hard to tap on the right field straightaway. Furthermore, dismissing a translated phrase to type another one was also a pain. On iOS 17, pretty much all of my concerns have been addressed in the Apple Translate app.
While Google Translate remains superior in terms of translation accuracy and language availability, Apple Translate can handle my occasional translation needs just fine. And thanks to this overhaul, I feel even more motivated to depend on it and ditch Google’s solution completely. We can only hope that this design makes it to the final release in September, as Apple could change its mind at any given moment.
Launched during the company’s annual World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) in Cupertino, Calif., the Apple Vision Pro is a wearable headset. The device will be capable of toggling between virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR), which projects digital imagery while users still can see objects in the real world.
It can be used for immersive experiences in everything from work meetings and FaceTime, to photos, movies and apps.
“Today marks the beginning of a new era for computing,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook.
The headset, which Apple says will be available in 2024, won’t be cheap, starting at $3,499 US, or about $4,700 Cdn.
Apple unveiled its first new product since the Apple Watch in 2015. The Vision Pro VR headset lets users blend augmented reality with everyday life, but its $4,700 Cdn price tag may be a tough sell.
“VR kind of resurfaces every 10 years or so as the big thing,” Alla Sheffer, a professor of computer science at the University of British Columbia whose research areas include virtual and augmented reality, told CBC News. “And then it goes away.”
The question on many people’s minds: is this time different?
What’s the difference between VR and AR?
To grasp the technology’s implications, it helps to understand the technology itself. Traditional virtual reality is a computer-generated environment. Typically, a user wears a head-mounted display or headset like ski goggles, Sheffer explained. But instead of looking through those goggles, users see a display.
“You only see the virtual content. You don’t see the outside world,” Sheffer said.
VR also includes capture setups, and software that responds to them: think, for example, of a virtual reality golf game where you’re moving your hands, and that’s captured automatically and translated into a gesture using a virtual golf club.
There are two types of augmented reality, Sheffer said: head-mounted display, and cell phone. With head-mounted display AR, imagine you’re wearing the same ski goggles, but now they’re transparent. You can see what’s in front of you in the physical world, but you can also see what’s on the screen.
Cell phone AR, Sheffer explained, combines what you see on your phone’s camera with virtual elements. Imagine choosing a couch model on a retail website, and seeing it in your living room through your phone’s camera.
“You probably interact with AR a lot and don’t realize it,” said Bree McEwan, an associate professor at the Institute of Communication, Culture, Information and Technology at the University of Toronto, and the director of the McEwan Mediated Communication Lab.
Pokemon GO, Snapchat, TikTok filters and even Google Maps already utilize AR, McEwan said.
What already exists in this sphere?
The Vision Pro combines both VR and AR in one device, McEwan and Sheffer explained. But Apple is far from the first company to venture into the virtual and augmented worlds.
There are a number of VR headsets already on the market, including Meta’s Oculus Quest 2 and Pro. Its Quest 3 is set to launch later this year, starting at $499 US or about $667 Cdn. That device will feature colour mixed reality, which combines augmented and virtual reality elements, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Meta’s Quest 2 and Quest Pro devices comprised nearly 80 per cent of the 8.8 million virtual reality headsets sold in 2022, according to an estimate by market research firm IDC. Still, Meta has struggled to sell its vision of an immersive “metaverse” of interconnected virtual worlds and expand the market for its devices beyond the niche of the gaming community.
A pilot project at Reddam House School in Berkshire, England, has students using VR headsets in the classroom to learn traditional subjects in a new way. Petting woolly mammoths, holding planets in their hands, and examining the human heart are just a few of the experiences students have in this future-facing take on education.
It’s also used for interpersonal skills and public speaking training, McEwan said. Education is another major opportunity, she added. In one of the classes she teaches, McEwan gives students headsets and they do five weeks of classes virtually. It’s a model she started utilizing during COVID, instead of using Zoom.
Screen-based AR is already used in several industries, such as warehousing and manufacturing, Sheffer said, where you can point your camera at an object and a recognition software identifies it.
So, is the future virtual?
McEwan sees a potential future for headsets in the business sphere, and predicts more organizations may start providing them for meetings and training. And if people get comfortable using something in a business setting, that may bleed into the social environment, she said, noting that’s what happened with e-mail and intranet messaging systems.
But while there’s what she calls a “cultural imagination,” for popping a device on your head and appearing in the metaverse, she said we’re not there yet. “The average person is probably not quite ready to jump into VR all of the time.”
Whether or not headsets are going to finally take off is what Sheffer calls “the billion-dollar question.” VR had surges of popularity over the last several decades, but people didn’t want to wear the headsets, she said.
“I think if anyone can make it, it’s Apple,” she continued. “If they can make the headset convenient, and make people want to wear it, then all of the sudden this can go places.”