Google’s head of hardware is betting big on ambient computing.

It’s time for Google to turn up the volume — metaphorically — on selling hardware. That was my takeaway from a conversation with Rick Osterloh, the head of Google’s newly named “Devices and Services” division. “We just passed our third-year anniversary as an organization,” he says, but “last year was a really pivotal year.”

It was. In 2018, Google acquired HTC engineers, released the Pixel 3, and finally integrated Nest. This year, Google is beginning to cash in on those decisions. The new Pixel 3A is the first phone to fully utilize the “Taiwan team,” as Google refers to those former HTC employees. And Google has finally made the move to merge its own Home-focused product division with Nest. “Pixel means Google’s first-party phone products,” Osterloh says, “and Nest will mean Google’s first-party home products.”

If Google hardware fails to take off in big numbers in the next couple of years, it won’t be because of a lack of resources or confusion about who makes what at Google. The runway for Google’s hardware has been straightened and cleared. But it has not, to my mind, been lengthened. Five years after founding the division is when Osterloh originally told me he expected to “be selling products in high volumes” when we spoke in 2017. So he doesn’t have a lot of time left.

This year, Osterloh says that Google’s hardware sales numbers are “good, but not where we want to be at the end of five years.” Investors seem to agree, hammering CEO Sundar Pichai about how hardware hasn’t made much of a contribution to Google’s bottom line in the last quarterly call.

So it’s no surprise that Google is looking to juice those numbers by selling a new, lower-cost Pixel phone. The Pixel 3A starts at $399, but has the same industry-leading camera found on the more expensive Pixel 3. The 3A is not only inexpensive, but also available on more US carriers — everybody but AT&T, basically.

With TechCrunch Startup Battlefield, Facebook Begins Search For Africa’s Best Innovators

The event, taking place in Lagos, Nigeria, will search for Sub-Saharan Africa’s best innovators, makers and technical entrepreneurs. On December 11, TechCrunch Startup Battlefield supported by Facebook, will bring together the strongest start-ups from across Sub-Saharan Africa, where they will pitch to a live audience of 500 people ranging from VCs, investors and government officials to developers.

In line with its commitment to growing Africa’s technology start-up ecosystem and its passion for developing diverse, young talent, Facebook is returning as the headline sponsor of TechCrunch Startup Battlefield Africa 2018.

The event, taking place in Lagos, Nigeria, will search for Sub-Saharan Africa’s best innovators, makers and technical entrepreneurs.

TechCrunch Startup Battlefield Africa sees start-ups compete across three categories — social good, productivity and utility, and gaming and entertainment. It profiles the founders and entrepreneurs leading Africa’s next wave of technology innovation and highlights new ideas, businesses and applications with disruptive potential.

On December 11, TechCrunch Startup Battlefield supported by Facebook, will bring together the strongest start-ups from across Sub-Saharan Africa, where they will pitch to a live audience of 500 people ranging from VCs, investors and government officials to developers.

Facebook representatives from Africa and beyond will be on the ground to celebrate, connecting, listening and learning from various communities as well as taking part in an exciting series of workshops, networking sessions and talks between December 6 and 11.

“Following the great success of the inaugural TechCrunch Startup Battlefield event in 2017, we are delighted to return as the headline sponsor for this year’s event,” says Emeka Afigbo, Facebook’s Head of Developer Programmes.

“Given our passion for connecting people and helping developers and entrepreneurs to thrive, we can’t wait to see how this year’s entrants are using technology to engage and empower people across the continent.”

Events Facebook will host over the week include: Developer Circle Leads Summit (6-7 December): A two-day summit for more than 65 Developer Circles Leads across Sub-Saharan Africa, representing a growing community of over 42,800 members across 31 cities in 15 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Instagram Inspire Action Lagos — Women and Small Business Event (6 December): A workshop to inspire, educate and train 70-80 entrepreneurs and women working in tech with a panel featuring special guests.

Startups and Developers Summit 2018 by Developer Circle Nigeria (8 December): Bringing together 600 attendees, and hosted by Facebook Developer Leads, the Summit will run trainings and workshop sessions on specialist deep-tech subjects, such as Messenger Bot

Aspiring Entrepreneurs — Digital Pitch Competition (10 December): Winners from seven Nigerian states who participated in the Aspiring Entrepreneurs: Digital 2018 programme will pitch their businesses to a panel of judges for a chance to win support and prizes from Facebook and Fate Foundation.

NG_Hub Start-up Mixer (10 December): A social gathering bringing together Start-ups from across the ecosystem, including NG_Hub start-ups (Start-ups using Facebook’s Community Hub) and those taking part in the TechCrunch Startup Battlefield event.

Student Hack (11 December): In partnership with Re:Learn by CC_Hub, Facebook will bring together 50 local high school students from Lagos to take part in Hack-a-Day and other activities that highlight the difference developers can make in the world using computer science skills.

Microsoft billionaire co-founder, Paul Allen dies of Cancer at 65

Billionaire Paul Allen, who founded US software giant Microsoft with Bill Gates has died after his battle with cancer.

Allen, a tech billionaire, who was a philanthropist and the owner of the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trail Blazers was first diagnosed with cancer in 2009. He died on Monday, just two weeks after publicly revealing that non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma he fought into remission nine years ago had returned.

“My brother was a remarkable individual on every level. While most knew Paul Allen as a technologist and philanthropist, for us he was a much loved brother and uncle, and an exceptional friend,” Allen’s sister Jody said in a statement.

“Paul’s family and friends were blessed to experience his wit, warmth, his generosity and deep concern… At this time of loss and grief for us — and so many others — we are profoundly grateful for the care and concern he demonstrated every day.”

Paul who co-founded US software giant Microsoft with Bill Gates in the 1970s is worth $20.3 billion, according to Forbes.

iPhone XR Release Date And Cheaper Price Revealed At Apple Keynote 2018

Apple has announced a third new iPhone X model.

As expected, Apple revealed several new iterations of the iPhone during its Keynote 2018 address. In addition to the iPhone XS and the bigger XSMax –this year’s follow-ups to the iPhone X–Apple unveiled the rumored “budget” version of the handset, the iPhone XR.

As 9to5Mac reported ahead of the Keynote, the phone will feature a 6.1-inch, edge-to-edge LCD screen that Apple calls the Liquid Retina Display. This gives the device a bigger display than an iPhone 8 Plus in a smaller overall handset. The phone comes in three different storage sizes–64 GB, 128 GB, and 256 GB–and will be available in six finishes: black, white, red, yellow, blue, and coral.

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Apple bills the iPhone XR as “the iPhone X experience in an LCD display.” It boasts the same set of features found in other iPhone X models. Like those, the phone doesn’t have a home button; rather, you simply tap to wake it and swipe up to return to the home screen. It offers an hour and a half more battery life than the iPhone 8 Plus and features haptic touch and Face ID.

The iPhone XR starts at $749. It launches on October 26, with pre-orders beginning on October 19. The other newly revealed iPhone models, the XS and XS Max, start at $999 and $1099, respectively, and launch later this month on September 21.

There were many other announcements during Apple’s Keynote 2018 address, such as a new Apple Watch Series 4. You can catch up on all of the news from the presentation in our full  Apple Keynote recap.

eDigitalnews/digital technology

Xperia XZ3 vs. XZ2 Premium vs. XZ2 vs. XZ2 Compact: Smartphone battle royale

SPECS

Xperia XZ3 Xperia XZ2 Premium
Xperia XZ2
Xperia XZ2 Compact
Size 158 x 73 x 9.9 mm (6.22 x 2.87 x 0.39 inches) 158 x 80 x 11.9 mm (6.22 x 3.15 x 0.47 inches) 153 x 72 x 11.1 mm (6.02 x 2.83 x 0.44 inches) 135 x 65 x 12.1 mm (5.31 x 2.56 x 0.48 inches)
Weight 193 grams (6.81 ounces) 236 grams (8.32 ounces) 198 grams (6.98 ounces) 168 grams (5.93 ounces)
Screen size 6-inch OLED display 5.8-inch IPS LCD display 5.7-inch IPS LCD display 5-inch IPS LCD display
Screen resolution 2,880 x 1,440 pixels (537 pixels per inch) 3,840 x 2,160 pixels (765 pixels per inch) 2,160 x 1,080 pixels (424 pixels per inch) 2,160 x 1,080 pixels (483 pixels per inch)
Operating system Android 9.0 Pie Android 8.0 Oreo Android 8.0 Oreo Android 8.0 Oreo
Storage space 64GB 64GB 64GB 64GB
MicroSD card slot Yes, up to 512GB Yes, up to 512GB Yes, up to 512GB Yes, up to 512GB
Tap-to-pay services Google Pay Google Pay Google Pay Google Pay
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
RAM 4GB 6GB 4GB, 6GB 4GB
Camera 19MP rear, 13MP front Dual 19MP & 12MP rear, 13MP front 19MP rear, 5MP front 19MP rear, 5MP front
Video Up to 4K at 30 frames per second, 1080p at 960 fps Up to 4K at 30 frames per second, 1080p at 960 fps Up to 4K at 30 frames per second, 1080p at 960 fps Up to 4K at 30 frames per second, 1080p at 960 fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.0
Ports USB-C USB-C USB-C USB-C
Fingerprint sensor Yes Yes Yes Yes
Water resistance IP68/IP65 IP68/IP65 IP68/IP65 IP68/IP65
Battery 3,330mAhQuickCharge 3.0

Qi wireless charging

3,540mAhQuickCharge 3.0

Qi wireless charging

3,180mAhQuickCharge 3.0

Qi wireless charging

2,870mAhQuickCharge 3.0
App marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store Google Play Store Google Play Store
Network support T-Mobile, AT&T T-Mobile, AT&T T-Mobile, AT&T T-Mobile, AT&T
Colors Black, Silver White, Forest Green, Bordeaux Red Chrome Black, Chrome Silver Liquid Black, Liquid Silver, Deep Green, Ash Pink Black, White Silver, Moss Green, Coral Pink
Price $900 $1,000 $800 $650
Buy from Best Buy, Amazon Best BuyAmazon Best BuyFocusAmazonBuyDig Best BuyAmazonFocusBuyDig
Review score Hands-on review 2.5 out of 5 stars 3 out of 5 stars 4 out of 5 stars

PERFORMANCE, BATTERY LIFE, AND CHARGING

Sony Xperia XZ3 review
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

Since all four are equipped with the powerful Snapdragon 845, you’re likely to find similar performance in each. The amount of RAM available in each phone varies, but since all have at least 4GB available, you’re unlikely to find much of a difference in real-world performance. They are all square on storage space too, with 64GB available in each and up to 512GB extra through a MicroSD card.

Can the battery break the tie? Possibly. Each phone has a battery sufficient for at least a day’s worth of tapping, streaming, and watching. The XZ3 has a slightly larger battery than its counterpart, which puts the XZ2 out of the running — but the XZ2 Premium and XZ2 Compact both sport great batteries for their sizes, even with the Premium’s massive 4K resolution pulling hard on the 3,540mAh battery.

There’s Quick Charge 3.0 on each of these phones, too, but the XZ2 Compact suffers slightly in lacking the convenience of wireless charging. With the Compact out of the running, it comes down to the XZ3 and the XZ2 Premium — and having 2GB more RAM just squeezes the win for the XZ2 Premium. Realistically, the XZ3 and XZ2 Premium are neck-and-neck.

Winner: Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium

DESIGN AND DURABILITY

sony xperia xz2 premium xz familiy comparison
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

All four of these phones follow Sony’s new Ambient Flow design ethos, but there are small differences to be found. First off, the XZ2 Premium’s 16:9 aspect ratio display gives it some seriously chunky bezels at the top and the bottom of the device, putting it out of the running. The XZ2 and XZ2 Compact have a slimmer forehead and chin, but neither can compete with the more curved look Sony’s taken with the XZ3. The XZ3’s screen curves into the body, reducing the bezels on the sides, and it’s combined with further reductions of top and bottom bezels.

Other than these differences, all four phones are pretty much the same. They all are IP68/65 rating for water and dust-resistance, none has a headphone jack, and they’re all on the heavier side for 2018 smartphones. All but the Compact are also extremely slippery glass phones, so it’s definitely worth picking up a case for grip and protection. The Compact has a glass back and it’s easier to hold, which makes it slightly more durable.

Still, the design changes made with the Xperia XZ3 make it the more attractive phone.

Winner: Sony Xperia XZ3

DISPLAY

Sony Xperia XZ3 review
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

The Xperia XZ3 is the first Sony smartphone to come with an OLED display, putting the IPS LCD displays in the XZ2 and XZ2 Compact to shame with deep inky blacks and bright vibrant colors. But can it beat the astoundingly sharp 4K resolution of the XZ2 Premium? It’s a hard choice to make, and one that’s likely to be personal — but for us, it’s so hard to tell the difference between the sharpness on the XZ3’s Quad HD+ resolution and the XZ2 Premium’s 4K resolution that the better OLED color reproduction and deep blacks on the XZ3 make the choice clear.

The XZ3 might have the best screen we’ve ever seen on an Xperia phone, and it wins this round.

Winner: Sony Xperia XZ3

CAMERA

sony xperia xz2 premium lens offset
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Sony’s camera hardware is some of the best around, but it tends to fall slightly short of true greatness. The XZ2 and XZ2 Compact have capable cameras, but it’s the dual-lens XZ2 Premium that showed us what Sony’s really capable of with some exceptional low-light performance. The XZ3 should be the next step up in Sony’s evolution, but for some reason the company chose to step back down to the same 19-megapixel single lens from the XZ2. We’re expecting the XZ3 to have a strong camera — but we doubt it will be capable of matching the XZ2 Premium’s performance.

Around the front of the XZ3 you’ll find a 13-megapixel selfie shooter that’s much the same as the XZ2 Premium’s. All four of the phones also support 4K HDR video recording and super-slow motion video at 1080p.

Each of these phones have a capable camera suite, but we’re confident that the XZ2 Premium is the strongest of these four.

Winner: Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium

SOFTWARE AND UPDATES

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Sony’s record with Android updates is strong, but the XZ3 takes an immediate lead straight out of the gate with the inclusion of Android 9.0 Pie. Sony has confirmed that the entire XZ2 range will receive Android 9.0 Pie eventually, but since that’s yet to happen it gives the XZ3 the lead. Being a newer phone, you can also expect the XZ3 to be supported for slightly longer than the XZ2 range.

Outside of the more advanced operating system, you’ll find similar amounts of Sony’s usual bloatware applied to these devices.

The Xpera XZ3’s use of Android 9.0 Pie gives it the win here.

Winner: Sony Xperia XZ3

SPECIAL FEATURES

Sony Xperia XZ3 review
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

Being a Sony-made device, every one of these four devices comes with Sony’s PS Remote Play that allows users to stream their PlayStation 4 gameplay to their Xperia smartphones, bypassing the need for a TV. Another niche feature is the 3D Creatorapp, which creates 3D models of objects using the phone’s camera. You’ll also get a more immersive experience from the Dynamic Vibration System on the XZ3, XZ2, and XZ2 Premium that vibrates during videos to emphasize punches, gunshots, or other activities.

Sony’s added more features to the XZ3 though, and you might find them more useful. Side Sense is similar to Samsung’s Edge Sense, and it brings up a shortcut menu of frequent apps and actions when you tap the side of the screen. The Smart Launch feature launches the camera automatically when held in landscape.

The Xperia XZ3’s additional features are still a little niche — but since it gets everything the XZ2 range gets, this is clear win for the XZ3.

Winner: Sony Xperia XZ3

PRICE

You can buy one of Sony’s Xperia XZ2 smartphones from a range of retailers right now, but you’ll commonly find them on Amazon and Best Buy. The XZ3 will be available from Best Buy and Amazon from October 17.

The Xperia XZ3 will set you back $900, while the XZ2 Premium retails for a staggering $1,000. The XZ2 costs $800 — and the XZ2 Compact is the cheapest of the lot, starting from $650.

Xperia smartphones don’t work with CDMA networks, so there’s no support for Verizon and Sprint — but they will work fine with AT&T and T-Mobile.

OVERALL WINNER: SONY XPERIA XZ3

The Xperia XZ3 is, in many ways, a very similar beast to the XZ2 range. There’s been no really big jump in power or design, and most of the improvements involve fine-tuning rather than an overhaul. But the differences that are present are enough to make the Xperia XZ3 the more solid choice out of the four on offer.

The exception is the XZ2 Compact, which targets people who desire smaller phones. It’s one of your best choices if you don’t want a massive device.