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Tech Report Cards

As the end of the year draws near, the big announcements have stopped and everyone is looking back at the year that was 2017.

The guys over at The Verge take a look at some of the biggest names in tech and give them a grade. Spoiler: Nintendo did good, Uber is going to need their parents to come in and meet with the principal.

2017 has been a tough year for most people, and tech companies were not spared. Most companies found themselves grappling with moral, cultural, and political responsibilities, such as fighting the spread of fake news and advertisements and correcting toxic corporate cultures. Others found runaway success with a viral release of a much needed, innovative product. So, how did giants like Facebook, Google, Nintendo, Uber, Tesla, Samsung, Apple, Microsoft, and more do compared to last year? Find out as we take a look back in our 2017 tech report cards, compiled by The Verge staff.

Apple says sorry

Apple must have been really feeling the heat as they apologized yesterday for slowing down your older phones because of degrading batteries. As a token of their extreme amount of sorriness, they're offering $29 battery replacements to make it all better (down from $79). 

Personally, I don't think this cuts it, and I don't think people are going to give Apple a pass on this one. It would have been one thing if they'd told people why their phones were running slower and offered a solution (replace your battery), but I think it'll be a tough pill to swallow for some as Apple didn't say anything until they'd been caught. Maybe I'm just grumpy...

CNBC has more on the big apology from Apple.

"We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down. We apologize. There's been a lot of misunderstanding about this issue, so we would like to clarify and let you know about some changes we're making. First and foremost, we have never — and would never — do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades. Our goal has always been to create products that our customers love, and making iPhones last as long as possible is an important part of that."

 

Microsoft year in review

Microsoft is one of those companies that gives us a bunch of material every year for our podcast, WeeklyTechUpdate. While Microsoft does hit some home runs, they also strike out and make some pretty odd calls every once and a while. 2017 was no exception and the folks over at PCWorld take a look back at the best and worst of Microsoft last year.

Microsoft’s 2017 may as well be known as the year the company turned away from the consumer and, sadly, back toward the enterprise. 

This past year was notable for two casualties: Microsoft’s phone business finally died, as did Groove Music, the music subscription service that Microsoft abandoned in favor of Spotify. In fact, you could argue that Microsoft’s software and services didn’t succeed nearly as well as its hardware, where a new generation of Surfaces and Xbox One consoles were generally well received.

HTC and Motorola pile on

As Apple hopes that people forget about them slowing down older phones because of "battery issues", HTC and Motorola both happily have piled on and said that they don't slow down their older phones like Apple does. I'm sure Apple is very happy that their competitors are taking a chance to kick them while they're down. The Verge has the full story.

I can't be the only one who thinks this story about Apple throttling devices is far from over?

HTC and Motorola say they don’t throttle their phones’ processor speeds as their batteries age, something Apple last week acknowledged doing to prevent errors after iPhone owners documented slowdowns. In emails to The Verge, both companies said they do not employ similar practices with their smartphones. An HTC spokesperson said that designing phones to slow down their processor as their battery ages “is not something we do.” A Motorola spokesperson said, “We do not throttle CPU performance based on older batteries.”

The Verge also reached out to Google, Samsung, LG, and Sony for comment on whether their phone processors are throttled in response to aging batteries. A Sony spokesperson said a response would be delayed by the holidays, and a Samsung spokesperson said the company was looking into it.

Update: Samsung and LG also confirm they don't slow down their phones either.

Blackberry KEYone Black Edition 64GB Evaluation

We have just posted our evaluation of the Blackberry KEYone Smartphone. This phone has a full physical keyboard, some nifty hardware and software tricks and the reliable Blackberry name that many have grown to love and trust. We take a good long look at it and try and help you decide if it should be your next Smartphone. Check out the article for all the details.

This is the first Blackberry device I've used in many years, so I really hoped that it lived up to my expectations. While it certainly isn't an entry-level phone, it's not quite a flagship either in terms of performance. It falls in the super-crowded mid-range device and as such it has a lot to compete with and live up to...

KEYone Black Edition

Huawei Announced New MateBook D with 8th-Gen Intel Inside

The Huawei MateBook is trying to break into a crowded market and I thing they should have gone with Ryzen to set themselves apart. Intel is probably the safest choice though (albeit more expensive) and they now have the latest from Intel inside the model D. There is also a new NVIDIA MX150 inside for a dedicated GPU and this does take the MateBook D out of the boring business class and give it some teeth when it comes to rendering, casual gaming and more. They do look very nice and should be considered if your in the market for a sweet Ultraportable machine that can get the job done in style.

According to a report from Chinese site MyDrivers (via MSPoweruser), Huawei has announced a refresh for its MateBook D lineup of Windows 10 laptops. The new laptop doesn't seem to change much, but it does offer Intel's new eighth-generation processors, which are now quad-core, offering up to a 30% boost in performance. The dedicated GPU has been improved as well. Rather than the Nvidia 940MX that was used in the previous model, customers will now get an Nvidia MX150.

Source: Neowin

Horrible Gadgets of 2017

There has been some real progress and some clear winners in the gadget world in 2017, but there have also been some stinkers. Engadget was pretty general a few days ago with their "best of", but they get down and dirty when it comes to bad gadgets. Juicero, Atari and Ramen are on the list - and they well should be. I also (not really at all) took a meeting at CES to check out the "innovative" speaker hat from Atari. Thank. Goodness.

Every once in a while, there's a product that just makes you go "Why?" And Atari's new line of Speakerhats is definitely that. As its name suggests, the Speakerhat is essentially a baseball cap with a Bluetooth speaker embedded right in the brim. Atari is apparently marketing this at fitness enthusiasts who don't mind blasting their musical tastes to the world as they run laps. There's also a microphone, giving you the option of having loud conversations in the middle of the park and looking crazier than you would if you were wearing a pair of headphones.

Source: Engadget

iPhone X Sales Forecast Cut

Just in time for Christmas, analysts have hacked the forecast for iPhone X sales as the demand has been lukewarm at best. It appears that people aren't interested in over-priced phones that don't offer any new features other than software updates which animate emojis. The fact is, Apple has found the price point where people aren't willing to get the latest and the greatest technology. We knew there was a ceiling on what you could charge, but no one ever found out what it was - until now. Poor Apple. Maybe they should offer better quality at the very least.

Apple has been counting on a redesigned 10th anniversary iPhone to boost shipments as its market value advances toward $1 trillion. The Cupertino, California-based company is facing new challenges from Samsung Electronics Co., which is quickly recovering from the Galaxy Note 7’s recall after fires. In the meantime, Chinese brands such as Huawei, Oppo and Xiaomi are also luring away potential customers in China and other emerging markets such as India.

Source: Bloomberg

People Still Aren't Buying Smart Watches

Wearable tech is a hard sell and it's been a long road for companies that are starting out. In fact, even companies that have a big name in the business are struggling. Growth of the wearable market is forecast to be down to single digits (in percentages) in 2019 as there is just no reason to have an expensive piece of technology that does nothing new. While I like the idea of Smart Watches, I don't use mine often enough to go shopping for a new one. I have a Pebble Steel and a Martian Notifier. I love them, but not enough to buy them again.

"Other than early adopters, consumers have yet to find a reason to justify the cost of a smartwatch, which can sometimes cost as much as a smartphone," the eMarketer forecasting analyst Cindy Liu wrote in the report. "Instead, for this holiday season, we expect smart speakers to be the gift of choice for many tech enthusiasts, because of their lower price points."

Source: Business Insider

The Best Gadgets of 2017

2017 is all but gone and there have been some nifty gadgets make it to market this year. Some of these are almost life-changing and others are just plain fun. The list is pretty lean as it contains some pretty big-ticket items and is more of "Cool Tech of 2017". Still, there is some food for thought here.

After the flop that was the Wii U, Nintendo's Switch hybrid marks a bold step in a new direction. First-party games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey are among the best (if not the best) in their respective series, and developers have been keen to port more adult fare like Doom and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus to the new platform. Best of all, you don't need to be lounging in your living room to enjoy the Switch's surprisingly broad slate of year-one games.

Source: Engadget

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