Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

The Wrap – July 21, 2017

Oppo is in, Pandora is out, Kogan goes big, and Google comes home. All that on The Wrap.


It’s July 21, and for the end of this week, this is The Wrap, Australia’s fastest helping of technology served on a spoon and plated with a scone or two.

And this week, we get right into the news by taking a bite out of Pandora, which only has a little over one week left to get your fill of Australian access.

Yes, you have until July 31 to enjoy Pandora’s online create-your-own-radio service, with the company due to pull out of the Australian market from July 31, leaving subscribers to find another way to get their music fill.

That means if you do regularly rely on Pandora, you’ll want to make other arrangements, considering options like Apple Music, Google Play, Spotify, or Tidal, each offering their own take of what radio can deliver when you create a radio station based on an artist you like.

As far as we understand, Pandora is getting out of the Australian and New Zealand markets to concentrate on growth in America where it’s from, and while we can’t help but feel the approach is more than a little flawed — because companies usually grow out, rather than implode and grow back inwards — we’re sorry to see it go, and suggest that rather than wait out the remainder of Pandora’s days, that subscribers should try other services ASAP.

Seriously, get your 90 days free of Apple Music, or your 30 days free for either Google, Spotify or Tidal. And if that doesn’t suit, just hold up, because once Pandora pulls the plug on Australian access, you can bet we’ll try and give you a way of returning access just as quickly.

Now while Pandora is on its way out, Google is on its way in, announcing that its Google Home and WiFi products are on their way to Australia.

We’re not always the first stop on Google’s product release tour, but Australia isn’t super behind this time with Home and WiFi only running a few months behind, and very different reasons for release.

First is Google Home, a unique little appliance aimed at giving you Google’s Assistant in a small device that can not only listen to your commands, but also act on them.

Let’s say you want Google to tell you what the weather will be like in New Orleans because you want to remind yourself how awesome it is in the French Quarter, you merely have to say “Hey Google, what’s the weather like in New Orleans” and she’ll go to work.

Getting news and weather is one side of the equation, because if you’ve begun the transition to making your home smarter with connected speakers and WiFi lightbulbs, you can tell a Google Home unit to turn on the lights in your living room by saying “OK Google, turn on the lights in the living room”.

Ultimately, Google Home will be the first step for many in converting the home into a smart home, and with a speaker built directly in, could essentially create a multi-room music system throughout the house with a microphone that like Frasier is “always listening”.

At $199 each, Google Home is a very interesting concept that will get more features as more companies connect with the system, making it more likely that Google Assistant can talk to more aspects of your life, even if it can’t send a message to your wife and baby that you love them.

Launched alongside Google Home is “Google WiFi”, Google’s attempt at making WiFi around the home easier by creating a mesh network.

Now mesh networks are one of those things that haven’t really been used tremendously in home networks, and outside of the Sonos multiroom audio products, we haven’t seen much from them, until this year anyway.

2017 has instead revealed quite a few networking products based on the idea of a mesh network, and Google’s aims to be a proper mesh, bolstering the network strength with each network node and access point you bring to the table.

By themselves, they’ll cost $199 each, but Google will sell three in a pack for $499, and the idea is that you’ll set these up in rooms where you want the WiFi to be spread across best, creating what is basically a WiFi blueprint in the architectural sense for your home.

Or to put it more simply, you know how when your significant other complains about the WiFi not working in the bedroom, THAT.

You’ll find Google WiFi in stores across the country shortly, alongside that of Google Home, each selling for $199.

Also arriving in Australia this week are products made for the budget buyers out on the world, with new gadgets from the likes of Oppo and Kogan.

First is something from Kogan, as Australia’s favourite eTailer re-enters the world of inexpensive TVs by making a massive 75 inch 4K Ultra HD television for less than two grand.

We’re not going to lie: we don’t anticipate Kogan’s 75 incher 4K telly to be the most amazing thing, but given that 4K screens above 65 inches tend to cost at least four or five grand, Kogan sure knows what buttons to press to make people curious, and with a release date of late August, it’s not far either.

Next up is Oppo, and this week the company has announced a new model in its line-up of phones that look and feel remarkably like an iPhone.

While Oppo’s phones run Android and so therefore aren’t iPhones — plus Apple is the only company to actually make an iPhone — Oppo’s mobiles have always followed very much in line with what Apple has crafted, opting for a slim metal design that is so reminiscent of what Apple makes that it’s hard not to call the products iClones.

While some might call this a problem, it’s something that has worked well for Oppo, giving it an edge especially in places where the iPhone sells very well, like that of Australia.

This week, there’s a new model to look at as Oppo brings a $649 smartphone to Australia featuring two rear cameras, one 16 megapixel and the other 20 megapixels.

You’ll also find a metal body, a 5.5 inch Full HD screen, support for 4G, WiFi, and Bluetooth, and a big 3000mAh battery, but really the big deal with this one is that it’s a phone sporting two cameras to let you get a little closer without needing that compact camera, much like you can do on the iPhone 7 Plus, but without spending as much.

In fact, with the 7 Plus starting at $1269, Oppo’s R11 hits hard at a price nearly half of that, making it tempting if the look of an iPhone and dual cameras is what you’re after.

We’ll let you know what it’s like later on with a full review, but it won’t be this week.

At Pickr we have reviewed two products this week, so if you head to the website, you can read our thoughts on Bang & Olufsen’s H9 wireless headphones and Microsoft’s new Surface Pro, but sufficed to say, we liked both, albeit for different reasons, even if both were a little less value-packed than we’d have liked.

And that means we’re out of time for The Wrap this week, but we’ll be back the same time next week with more tech news and possible a review, all in the space of time it’s supposed to take your bus or train to arrive. It’s ok, we know it’s going to be late. It’s just a thing.

From everyone at Pickr, take care and have a great week. We’ll see you then.

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