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Apple unveils its flagship 5G phones, the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max

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At Apple’s iPhone event on Tuesday, the company introduced a range of new phones, led by the just-announced flagships: the iPhone 12 Pro, starting at $999, and iPhone 12 Pro Max, starting at $1099. The new 5G-ready devices sport an all-screen Super Retina XDR display, the A14 Bionic chip, a Ceramic Shield front cover, LiDAR Scanner, and of course, the iPhone line’s best camera system.

iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max will be available in 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB configurations and four stainless steel finishes, including graphite, silver, gold, and pacific blue.

5G, of course, will be one of the bigger selling points for the devices as the new technology will boost speeds, meaning faster downloads and uploads, higher quality streaming, more responsive gaming and faster responses in apps, among other things.

Image Credits: Apple

In the U.S., Apple says the iPhone 12 Pro models will be able to reach speeds of up to 4Gbps, even in densely populated areas. A “Smart Data” feature will also help with the transition to faster speeds, by intelligently balancing data usage and battery power in real-time.

Inside, the new devices also include the A14 Bionic chip, featuring a 16-core Neural Engine — for an 80% increase in performance, Apple claims. It’s capable of completing 11 trillion operations per second, and is faster and more efficient than prior iterations.

Aesthetically, the new iPhones will look somewhat different too.

The 6.1-inch iPhone 12 Pro and 6.7-inch iPhone 12 Pro Max will now have a flat-edge design and an edge-to-edge OLED display with reduced borders. On the Pro Max, iPhone gets its biggest-ever screen and the highest resolution, at neary 3.5M pixels.

The back is matte glass and the phone sports at stainless steel band, but what’s new is something Apple is calling “Ceramic Shield.” This new, tougher front cover aims to improve the “shatterability,” so to speak, which Apple claims improves drop performance by 4x compared with iPhone 11 Pro.

Image Credits: Apple

The iPhone 12 Pro models are also water resistant for up to 6 meters for 30 minutes, or the IP68 rating, as it’s known.

Another key reason people opt for the high-end models is the camera.

Apple says, this time around, it’s aided by a new image signal processor (ISP), the A14 Bionic, and the models will feature “Apple ProRAW” later this year. This combines Apple’s multiframe image processing and computational photography capabilities with the versatility of the RAW format, Apple explains. In practice, this means users will be able to exert creative control over color, detail and dynamic range both natively on the iPhone and using third-party photo editing tools.

The iPhone 12 Pro features also a new 7-element lens Wide camera with an ƒ/1.6 aperture, the fastest now available in the iPhone line, and promising improvements in low-light video and photos. The Ultra Wide camera has a 12-degree field of view, while the Telephoto camera has a 52 mm focal length, bringing the optical zoom range to 4x.

The iPhone 12 Max ups things further with a 47% larger sensor with 1.7μm pixels for a 87% improvement in low-light conditions, Appe claims. It also has the Ultra Wide camera and a Telephoto camera with a 65 mm focal length, for a 5x optical zoom range.

Night mode has also now been expanded the to TrueDepth and Ultra Wide cameras, and Night mode Time-Lapse promises sharper videos, better light trails, and smoother exposure when used with a tripod.

Deep Fusion is also now faster, and Smart HDR 3 is an update for more true-to-life images, says Apple.

Image Credits: Apple

For video, the new models offer HDR video with Dolby Vision, up to 60 fps, and improved video stabilization. Users can even share their 4K Dolby Vision videos on AirPlay.

Also new is the LiDAR Scanner, which matters for AR.

The improvement means faster and more realistic AR with an improved autofocus by 6x in low-light scenes.

A consumer-friendly feature coming to the new iPhone models is MagSafe, which helps with wirelessly charging as well as allowing users to snap on magnetic accessories, like Apple’s new Leather Wallet with MagSafe. These will go on sale along with the MagSafe Charger and iPhone 12 Pro Silicone Case and Clear Case on Oct. 16. Leather Cases will go on sale Nov. 6. A MagSafe Duo Charger and Leather Sleeve will later follow.

Image Credits: Apple

Pre-orders for iPhone 12 Pro begin Friday, October 16, with availability beginning Friday, October 23. iPhone 12 Pro Max will be available for pre-order Friday, November 6, and in stores beginning Friday, November 13.

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Vivo makes big expansion into Europe

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Vivo, one of the largest smartphone brands in the world, is expanding its operations in Europe. The company will now sell phones and accessories in six new markets: the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain.

Vivo is kicking things off with the X51 5G flagship phone, essentially a rebranded version of the X50 that launched earlier in the year. Its headline feature is a “gimbal-style” camera system that is claimed to offer much-improved image stabilization.

The X51’s other features include ultrawide, 2x, and 5x telephoto cameras, a Snapdragon 765 processor, a 90Hz 6.56-inch 1080p OLED screen, 256GB of storage, a 4,315mAh battery, and 33W fast charging. It’ll cost £749 ($972) in the UK and go on sale on October 29th.

The company will also be selling the Y70, Y20s and Y11s, cheaper phones that focus on long battery life, as well as wireless earbuds and neckbuds.

Vivo is often ranked as one of the top five smartphone vendors worldwide, with large market share in regions like China, India, and Southeast Asia. IDC’s most recent data saw it overtaken by Oppo, however, with which it shares the same owner: BBK Electronics, the large Chinese conglomorate that also owns OnePlus and Realme.

Vivo is known for experimental hardware features that it often shows off in concept form before shipping in commercial products. In-display fingerprint sensors and pop-up selfie cameras are examples of now-commonplace features that Vivo pioneered.

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Netflix will offer its library for free to Indian non-subscribers for a weekend

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Earlier this month, Netflix said that it’s ending the 30-day long free trial that it used to entice people into getting a subscription. Today, during its earnings call, the company stated that it’s exploring new ways for people to experience its library before they get a subscription.

The first test the streaming giant is performing is a free weekend-long trial. The company will start this experiment in India, where it’ll offer its service for free on the weekend of December 4, as reported by Protocol.

India is the first of many countries where Netflix will test this two-day “Streamfest” to hopefully gain more subscribers. The company would want to compete with Disney+ Hotstar in the market, which has more than 8 million subscribers in the country.

[Read: What audience intelligence data tells us about the 2020 US presidential election]

“We think that giving everyone in a country access to Netflix for free for a weekend could be a great way to expose a bunch of new people to the amazing stories that we have, the service, how the service works, really create an event, and hopefully get a bunch of those folks to sign up. So we’re going to try that in India,” Greg Peters, the chief operating officer for the company, said on the earnings call.

Netflix has tried various ways to promote its service in a content-crazy market. Last year, it launched a mobile-only subscription plan for Indian users at ₹199 (~$3) a month. The company has also tested byte-sized weekly plans in the country starting from under $1 for a mobile-only subscription. The company also said it’s committed than $420 million to produce local content in the last couple of years.

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A long-awaited Willow sequel is official, and it’s coming to Disney Plus

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After years of silence, Disney has confirmed that Lucasfilm’s Willow will receive a sequel, in the form of a TV series coming to its Disney Plus streaming subscription service. The pilot will be directed by Crazy Rich Asians’ John M. Chu.

Willow has largely remained untouched since its original release in 1988, but this long rumored sequel will join existing novels and a comic book that previously built out the world of the film. The original can already be streamed on Disney Plus, and this new series will join The Mandalorian as Lucasfilm’s second television spin-off on the platform.

The 1988 film, directed by Ron Howard, was a cult hit when it first premiered, a fantasy adventure about an aspiring sorcerer named Willow (Warwick Davis) tasked with shepherding infant princess Elora Danan to safety alongside a ragtag group of fairies and warriors played by the likes of Val Kilmer, Joanne Whalley and Kevin Pollak.

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Not much is known about the sequel series beyond that it takes place years after the original film, but Ron Howard, now an executive producer, describes it as a “creative lean-forward” rather than a “nostalgic throw-back.” Willow himself will return: Warwick Davis, also a beloved Star Wars veteran, is set to reprise his role.

For Lucasfilm, this Willow series comes after five years of focus on Star Wars exclusively. Now that the Skywalker Saga is wrapped, I’m curious to see what other classics the company might bring back if Willow succeeds. I’m particularly interested in an American Graffiti series; there’s definitely enough teenage angst for a TV show if Riverdale is any indication. And yes, Indiana Jones and Labyrinth are still in the mix too. A fifth Indiana Jones continues to inch its way to production. And while not affiliated with Disney, a sequel to Labyrinth from Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson is also in the making.

Disney has made it clear that Disney Plus is the future of the company, and it needs all the new content it can get even with The Mandalorian returning for a second season and WandaVision on the way. A Willow series on Disney Plus, and perhaps other future Lucasfilm spin-offs, might help.

Though there’s no announced release date for this new series, the original film is available to stream on Disney Plus and remains as charming as ever. All the better for fans new and old to reacquaint themselves before the next adventure starts.

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