Of course, the main reason to buy an Xperia these days is for photography, since this brings much of the tech over from the Xperia 1 II. Packing a triple-lens Zeiss camera that we saw on the previous model, this new phone is able to shoot 120fps slow-motion in HDR, as well as grabbing real-time eye-autofocus. Sony’s pedigree in gaming means that, too, you’ll be able to roast your frenemies in multiplayer.
In the US, the Xperia 5 II will cost you $950 (£799 in the UK), with pre-orders opening on September 29th and shipping expected by December 4th. Plus, if you hand your money over before November 29th, you’ll get a gaming bundle including a headset, spare power bank and a bunch of points for Call of Duty Mobile.
Apple Watch SE review: An excellent starter smartwatch
watchOS 7 and new features
If you’ve used an Apple Watch before, most of the SE’s features will be familiar. The knob is a handy way to scroll through notifications, apps and volume controls, and together with the button it offers several nifty shortcuts. Long pressing the digital crown triggers Siri, while pressing the button below shows the power menu. Double tapping that pulls up your default card on Apple Pay.
Navigating the interface is the same as before, too, and if you’ve already set up your favorite apps in the dock, they’ll carry over when you set up the new device. As an Android user who’s mostly lived with other smartwatches though, I found it jarring that a swipe right doesn’t bring me back a page. I also still prefer Samsung’s Tizen OS for its simpler navigation where my favorite widgets and apps are just a spin away. On Apple’s Watches I have to first pull up all apps or the dock, then find the one I want.
What’s new with the Watch SE are mostly updates from watchOS 7, like the new Fitness app, sleep tracking and automatic hand wash detection and countdown. There are also new shareable watch faces with support for multiple complications from the same app. Having the daily UV index and the weather at the same time on my home screen made it easy to tell when I could skip the sunscreen.
Tapping any of these complications pulls up the respective app, and it was easy to summon my activity rings to see how far I was from closing them. In watchOS 7, you can set individual targets for each of the three circles, as opposed to one overall goal. I spend so much of my day stuck at my desk that a Stand goal of getting up every hour for 10 hours is nearly impossible to achieve, so I tuned that down and bumped up my exercise target instead.
Apple also added four new workouts you can track with watchOS 7 — dance, core training, functional strength training and cooldown. Dance and cooldown are intriguing additions but, I honestly couldn’t tell the difference in tracking these activities versus a generic “other exercise” session. Apple said it uses the watch’s sensors to figure out how your arms and legs are moving as you dance to predict body movement, then uses that data along with your heart rate in its algorithm to determine your calories burned. It’s nice to have theoretically more accurate information on your calorie expenditure, but at the end of the day, the report you’ll get looks very similar to what you get for other activities.
I don’t like wearing a watch to bed, but of all the smartwatches I’ve tested lately, the Apple Watch SE is the one I minded the least. Sadly, it also delivers the least insightful data. While Fitbit and Samsung use the heart rate monitor to figure out whether you’re in REM, light, deep or restorative sleep, Apple only takes into account accelerometer data. It does track your heart rate overnight but doesn’t use that to tell what sleep zone you’re in. The Watch SE also wasn’t as accurate at detecting when I fell asleep either. It assumed I had gone to bed at the time I had set in my Wind Down sleep schedule when in fact I only got in an hour later.
According to the Watch SE, I was restless right after I fell asleep, when really I was just awake and fidgeting. Then, when I woke up and snoozed my alarm a few times, none of those movements registered and Apple decided to take the time I finally stepped out of bed as when I woke up. This is the sort of unreliable tracking that plagued early Fitbits, but they’ve grown much better over the years. If accurate and insightful sleep tracking is important to you, the Apple Watch won’t be your best option.
Apple also introduced a Wind Down and Wake Up feature that helps you prepare for bed and your work day. I set my bedtime to 1am, and at midnight, the Watch SE went on Do Not Disturb and stopped bothering me, which was nice. But I continued to while away on my phone anyway, despite Do Not Disturb being enabled there too.
When my morning alarm went off, it was a gentle tune rather than a jarring cacophony, which was nice, but not much different from simply picking a better sound for my phone. These sounds were already available for iOS, anyway. What is better is that you can use the watch’s haptic engine for a vibration-based alarm on your wrist to rouse you without bothering others. Also, if you wake up and move in the 30 minutes before your set time, the Watch will ask if you want to turn off the alarm, which is a nice touch.
Another new watchOS 7 feature is hand-wash detection, which is particularly relevant during the pandemic. The Watch will automatically recognize, based on the way your hands are moving, if you’ve started to wash them. Then, it’ll turn on the microphone to listen for sounds of water and soap suds to confirm, and launch a 20-second timer to make sure you’re scrubbing for the recommended duration.
This is helpful when I’m getting my first wash in after returning home, but kind of annoying subsequently because I don’t always need to wash my hands for 20 whole seconds. Sometimes I just need to get some grease off my palm and ten seconds is enough. Thankfully, all you get if you stop washing before the time’s up is a gentle admonishment that you can skip, so it’s only a minor annoyance. The Watch SE was almost always able to detect when I’d started washing my hands, missing only one very quick session. But it also thought I was cleaning my hands when I was actually washing some grapes. Again, it was easy enough to just ignore the timer and go on with my day.
Google says Android 12 will make using third-party app stores easier
Google is outlining new changes to its developer policies and promising to make using third-party app stores easier on Android 12. The announcement addresses recent concerns around Android app development, including a fight over alternate in-app payment systems and difficulties for businesses moving online because of COVID-19.
Android users can already install apps through third-party stores like Samsung’s Galaxy Store. Google says that in response to developer feedback, it’s adding features to next year’s Android 12 release that will “make it even easier for people to use other app stores on their devices while being careful not to compromise the safety measures Android has in place.” It will release more details on these changes in the future.
Google isn’t, by contrast, relaxing its grip on in-app payments for Play Store apps. The company says that “all developers selling digital goods in their apps are required to use Google Play’s billing system,” and it’s tweaking language in its payment policy to make that clear. Any app that’s not already using the system for digital goods will required to add it by September 30th, 2021.
This has been a sticking point for Epic Games, whose title Fortnite was kicked off the Play Store in August after Epic added support for an alternate billing method. Fortnite is currently only available through third-party stores and Epic’s website, and Google doesn’t appear to be backing down — it specifically references Fortnite as example of how “even if a developer and Google do not agree on business terms the developer can still distribute on the Android platform.”
There’s one particularly complicated in-app purchase category: businesses that started letting users sell “virtual” versions of their normal non-digital offerings during the coronavirus pandemic. These companies, including Airbnb and ClassPass, have complained about being asked to pay a new service fee on iOS.
Apple has begun waiving these fees in some circumstances, and Google says these businesses won’t have to use Android’s Google Play billing for the near future. “We recognize that the global pandemic has resulted in many businesses having to navigate the challenges of moving their physical business to digital and engaging audiences customers in a new way, for example, moving in-person experiences and classes online,” it says. “For the next 12 months, these businesses will not need to comply with our payments policy, and we will continue to reassess the situation over the next year.”
Deadshot dies in the newest issue of DC Comics’ Suicide Squad
“The shocking death of Deadshot!” blared the very first line in the official summary of Suicide Squad #9, revealed months ago by DC Comics.
So don’t yell at me about spoilers.
If you haven’t checked in with Suicide Squad lately, the comic has been going very strong, with crisp, eye-popping art, a lineup of very cool new characters, an interesting new direction for the squad, and, of course, Deadshot and Harley Quinn, the team’s most consistent modern members.
Until now, that is. Over the last few issues, after finding out that he’d actually commuted all of his prison time and was technically a free man, Deadshot has been toying with the idea of retiring from life as a contract killer. But he keeps getting pulled back into the adventure by his new teammates, a bunch of anti-capitalist, anti-colonialist, anti-fascist revolutionaries. And we all know how the fabled One Last Mission always turns out, don’t we?
What else is happening in the pages of our favorite comics? We’ll tell you. Welcome to Sports Grind Entertainment’s weekly list of the books that our comics editor enjoyed this past week. It’s part society pages of superhero lives, part reading recommendations, part “look at this cool art.” There may be some spoilers. There may not be enough context. If you missed the last one, read this.
Suicide Squad #9
I won’t tell you how Deadshot bites it, but it has something to do with seeing right through a bad guy’s attempt to disguise himself as Superman. Remember: Just because he’s not Superman, doesn’t mean he’s not armed!
X of Swords: Creation kicked off the first crossover of the Dawn of X era. I talked about it a lot in our review, but I’d just like to reiterate: These Pepe Larraz designs slap hard.
I’ll say this about J.J. Abrams & Son Spider-Man: Sara Pichelli is producing creepier visuals than many explicit horror comics I’ve read. Eugh.
Wynd continues to see James Tynion and Michael Dialynas at their best, the duo delivering a rich fantasy world building built around teens struggling with identity. The book is playing with numerous themes of queer recognition, but not in a way that preaches, using both a magical metaphor for outsider status (weirdblood) and young characters exploring their first queer crushes.
Do I know much about Juggernaut? No. He’s Professor X’s shitty stepbrother who got a magic gem that made him a supervillain. Did I like the first issue of his new miniseries? Yes. I thought it was neat.
Harley Quinn Black + White + Red #13
Can’t wait for the third season of the Harley Quinn animated series? Well, for a dollar you can get Harley Quinn Black + White + Red #13 on Comixology, which is written by one of the show’s co-creators. It’s delightful, and you can 100% hear Bane’s voice actor read all of these lines.
“Man,” I thought to myself this week, “Al Ewing really nailed threading Krakoa stuff into the wider Marvel setting in Immortal She-Hulk, I wish he could have more opportunities to write the X-Men.” And then Marvel announced he’s getting his own Dawn of X title. Sign me right up.
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