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

The Wrap – June 23, 2017

Earphones to block out the world, a new TV to let it in, a phone you can drop into the world, and a web-slinging robot to protect it. It’s a more worldly Wrap.


For the weekend of June 23, this is The Wrap, Australia’s fastest serving of technology delivered straight to your eardrums, and this week we start that serving with a nod to how audio is changing.

Depending on what you listen to and how you go about listening to it, the world can sound very different. If you listen to the world using the earbuds that came with your phone, it’s very likely that you have to turn up your phone to match, a pet peeve of this reviewer and many like him.

Not everyone needs to do this, but some of us will go right out and try to block the world without turning up the sound to counter it.

This week, the Danish audio engineers at Bang & Olufsen have announced a new pair that aims to block out the outside while still keeping things slim and simple, something you’ll find in the B&O E4.

Designed to take on the brand that is practically the kings of noise cancellation — that would be Bose — B&O’s E4 pack in what is basically technology from their wireless H9 big brothers, a pair of headphones that normally retails for around $800, but drops it into a small in-earphone package for close to half.

The price isn’t the only obvious difference, with the E4 being wired, not wireless, but they are very small, and in our initial tests with the earphones, offer good sound and isolation, too. We’ll have more to come with a full review in the next few weeks, but for now, you’ll find the Bang & Olufsen E4 noise cancelling earphones in stores now.

Now Bang & Olufsen treats its earphones rather like a work of art, focusing much of the product on design, and it’s not the only brand to apply that design-led element.

This week, Samsung launched a new TV to the Australian market that was all about design, with a rather intriguing new model called “The Frame”.

Leave your finger quotation marks at the door, because they’re not needed here; what The Frame basically constitutes a large 55 or 65 inch television designed to be wall mounted that can showcase art to the world.

Now we need to stress that this TV isn’t just a massive digital photo frame, because honestly, that’s what we thought it was going to be.

A little different, this is basically a 4K Ultra HD TV that has been engineered to act as a window to the world of art when the TV is off. Yep, you heard that right, because when Samsung’s Frame TV is off, the screen switches over to show off an image just like it were a piece of art.

Similar to how Amazon’s Kindle can show images when they’re off, The Frame shows images and while these can be one of your own works of family photo art, they can also be one of the hundred artwork images Samsung’s Frame ships with, while Samsung itself will offer more that you’ll be able to buy from its online store.

As for The Frame TV, it’s a more interesting concept than you’d first expect, and not just because it has the muted look of a piece of art with mounting around the imagery.

It’s also because of the technology inside, with a sensor that can detect ambient light and change the brightness to match, and this is all while off. We’re told it will consume 30 percent of its electricity when it’s in this not-quite-off mode, and if enough people leave the room, the screen will even properly switched off.

All up, it’s an intriguing look at where mounted TVs are going, and not a thoroughly expensive one, either, starting at $3299 for a 55 inch piece of art, err TV, err art… well, you get what we mean.

Another concept that’s close to art this week is that of a phone, and while we’re a little late with this, we need to get this out.

You see a few weeks ago — and one of the first Wrap episodes — we gave high praise to a new phone from Samsung, the Galaxy S8. It’s not just a good phone; it’s a great phone, and competing against Samsung’s S8 is a phone that made its way out before Samsung’s arrived, and that’s LG’s G6.

This week, we’ve put it through the Pickr trials, and found out if LG’s 2017 flagship is worth the cash the company wants you to pay.

And long story short, it probably isn’t. While the thousand dollar price isn’t unusual for a new high-end phone, and LG’s G6 comes with many of the trimmings, like a big 5.7 inch screen, fast 4G, two cameras, metal body, and water resistance, the G6 is a phone that doesn’t come off feeling wholly unique for LG, and that’s surprising for a company that has found a way to incorporate a unique feature almost every time.

We’ll try to remember it exactly: the G2 had 24-bit audio support, the G3 had rear buttons, the G4 upped the materials to leather, and the G5 not only sported dual cameras, it also offered an ecosystem of accessories and a replaceable battery that allowed you to change the form of the phone quickly.

But the LG G6 offers none of that, and the version of Android LG has opted for even tries to be an iPhone, something we’ve not seen LG attempt in the past.

In short, as good as the LG G6 is technically, it lacks that pow, that pizzazz, that wow factor that makes you choose one phone over the other. It’s not a bad phone, it’s just not special, and the cameras need work, too.

We’ve reviewed a lot of phones in the past year, and Pickr has this week been around for that long — a year, can you believe it? — but there are a lot of devices worth considering, and with 2017 shaking up to be a big deal for smartphones, especially with the 10th anniversary of the iPhone coming up, we’d advise you to look around before betting on the LG G6.

Hey, knowing LG, there’ll probably be another variation in Australia by the time the new iPhone flies in.

And speaking of flying in, one last set of stories from one of our favourite toy makers, as Sphero joins the world of spider-man.

Yes, it seems like only yesterday we saw the robotic toy maker of Star Wars’ rolling ball droid BB-8 enter another Disney property and make something for Cars 3, but here we are again with a toy made for yet another Disney-connected movie, this time Marvel’s Spider-man: Homecoming.

A little different than your typical robot, Sphero’s take on Spider-man is more like a desk companion, and yet also a little like Pokemon Go, with the robot able to talk to you and quote-unquote “sense” when bad guys are near, so you can bundle him up and fight the invisible bad guys, freeing up your conscience, and then some.

While designed by Sphero, its Spider-man robot isn’t technically a robot in the same way the other Sphero robots are, because it doesn’t move at all.

Instead, it sits on your desk and uses a microphone and a connection to your phone to work out what’s going on, telling you when the spider-sense is tingling and it’s time to grab Spidey and go battle the bad guys.

At $249, it’s not the cheapest little toy, but it’s one that could essentially make a game like Pokemon Go a little more physical, because in a way the Spider-man toy takes the digital app-experience world and applies it to the real world, waiting for you to experience it by stepping in and getting amongst it.

It’s not the only big news item from Sphero this week, as the company spins off and makes a new division for a new kind of robot.

If there’s one constant in Sphero’s robots lately it’s that the company is generally producing toys, and toys branded by Disney. Star Wars, Cars, Spider-man, that sort of thing.

Under its Misty Robotics division, Sphero’s creators will instead focus on robots designed to help us in our lives, essentially building droids that can help at home and at work.

It’s a far cry from the toys Sphero is making now, and even seems removed from the educational robots the company makes still, but we’re keen to see what the company can come up with. After all, wouldn’t it be nice if you had someone to help you in your daily chores? Turns out that Jetsons world isn’t too far off.

It won’t be this week, and we’ve run out of time all the same. Tune in next week for more news and reviews spoken by a human, not a droid, and in as short a time as we can. Until then, have a great week.

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