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

The Wrap – October 13, 2017

Oculus makes VR more cost friendly, Amazon’s Kindle gets a wetsuit, and an iPhone 8 review told straight to your eardrums. It’s The Wrap.


For the week ending October 13, this is The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology podcast serving news and reviews straight to your eardrums.

And this week that serving of news starts with news not so much made for your eardrums, but made for your eyes, as Oculus unveils something cool and more mobile for the virtual reality world.

If you’ve been trying to keep up with the world of virtual reality or dabble with it for yourself, it’s true, it can be a touch confusing.

The simple problem is one of cost at the moment, because whatever you choose, VR isn’t cheap, requiring an initial cost of between $1200 and $4000, and that has slowed down VR’s take up considerably.

But the owners of what is arguably the world’s leaders in virtual reality technology have a different approach, and that will be to take VR mobile.

That’s courtesy of Facebook which owns Oculus, which this week both announced a headset that not only cuts the cord needed to connect the headset to the computer, but the cost as well.

Expected next year, Oculus’ new gadget is called the Oculus Go, and it’s a $199 USD headset that will have the screen and VR processing technology built inside the headset, meaning you won’t need a phone to use it, nor will you need a computer.

That’s a big deal for VR, which has previously needed one or the other, driving up the cost of entry for virtual reality and making it just that much harder for VR newbies to try it out.

Better, Oculus is making the Go support the same apps currently made for Samsung’s Gear VR, which is engineered in part by Oculus. That’s a good thing simply because it means Oculus already has a library for the Go before it comes out, and one that’s growing still.

We’ll let you know more about the Go when we do, but right now you can expect the portable Oculus VR headset early next year.

Now if you’re looking for something for your eyes to do now, you might want to skip the VR and go back to books.

We’re not talking regular books, though. I mean we’re a gadget and technology podcast. Please, like we’d make it that simple.

No, we’re talking eBooks, because this week Amazon’s Kindle got a bit of an upgrade, and one just in time for the Australian summer.

We’re not sure if you’ve noticed, but it’s getting mighty warm out there, and as the sun comes up and beckons you to the beach, the pool, or any stream of water you can take a dip in, you might be inclined to take your reading with you to go.

Good news then, because Amazon has a new Kindle, and it’s now waterproof so it won’t die when submerged in water, kind of like a real book.

The Kindle in question is an update to the Kindle Oasis, and is just the new Kindle Oasis, offering a higher resolution screen with perfectly clear text — because that actually matters — while the Oasis also includes ambient light sensors to adapt in any lighting environment, even under the sun when you’re reading on a beach.

Amazon’s new Kindle Oasis is a fair bit more than say a book, but at $389 for the 8GB WiFi only model and $529 for the 32GB with free worldwide mobile connectivity to help you get books from anywhere where there’s mobile reception, well, we can see the sort of market Amazon is going for here: folks who take their reading to the pool and beach.

And hey, that’d be us if we went to the beach more. But there’s so much reviewing to be done. So so much. I don’t even want to tell you how much reviewing there is to be done before Christmas, so instead let’s just get stuck into a review.

And what a review this is, because after checking out the iPhone 8 Plus a couple of weeks ago, it’s time to check out its little brother, the iPhone 8, what people — us included — affectionately call the “normal-sized iPhone”, because that’s what it basically is.

Instead of a big 5.5 inch display, the iPhone 8 continues down the road set out by the original 3.5 inch phone with a size made for normal hands to grip, a 4.7 inch screen size flanked on the top and bottom by bezels big enough for sensors, a camera, and of course that home button that isn’t actually a button from last year.

In fact, quite a bit from last year’s phone is still here, or isn’t as the case sometimes is. There is waterproofing and there isn’t a 3.5mm headset jack, and just like last year, there is only one camera to speak of, most of the changes to the iPhone 8 are skin deep.

You’ll find the same heart of the iPhone 8 Plus here, with Apple’s new A11 processor, a bit of hardware with a fair bit of grunt that can take whatever you throw at it, complete with enough horsepower to do some really cool things in augmented reality.

That’s paired with either 64 or 256GB of storage, and of course the latest version of Apple’s iOS, now in version 11.

Unsurprisingly, this combination of parts helps to make the iPhone 8 fly, delivering solid performance, while improvements to the modem make it capable of some super fast speeds about town. Tested in Sydney Australia on the Telstra 4GX network, we saw download speeds in excess of 200Mbps and upload speeds over 100Mbps, making it great to use as a portable modem and streaming video viewer.

Apple has also made some neat changes to the screen, and like its big brother, it now supports True Tone which means the colour looks better from room to room as the screen adapts to varying white balances, while the design has seen a refresh and now sports more glass than metal, supporting wireless charging at the same time.

And for the most part, it’s a good upgrade, but not necessarily a super amazing one, and we bring that down to two issues: battery and camera.

Simply put, Apple’s iPhone 8 is a flagship, and yet it doesn’t feel as strong a flagship as Apple’s iPhone 8 Plus, which is supposed to be just a bigger version.

In the bigger iPhone, you get a dual camera which really feels stronger overall, not just letting you get closer, but also letting you do some cool lighting and focus tricks thanks to the inclusion of that second camera.

You also get more battery life to work with, which the iPhone 8 desperately needs. We could hit a day maximum, but it wasn’t a full 24 hours, and if you’re a power user, good luck even hitting that.

And both of those are kind of a problem for us. Huawei has shown that a dual camera can work in a smaller body with the P9 and P10 smartphones, while quite a few manufacturers have shown a full 24 hours should be possible from a phone this size — think of Oppo, for instance — and yet Apple struggles with both of these.

We need to be completely clear, though: the iPhone 8 is a good handset. Apple doesn’t make a bad phone, not one we’ve seen, but if you had to consider an iPhone 8, we’d strongly advise checking out the iPhone 8 Plus, or even the upcoming iPhone X. Those dual cameras help to really improve the iPhone altogether, and while it would have been nice to have seen a proper smaller iPhone 8 Plus, that’s not really what the iPhone 8 is. It’s close, but it’s just not the same.

Seriously, we’d say that if you’re eyeing the iPhone 8, probably wait to see if the fuss on the iPhone X is worth it. That’s basically an iPhone 8 Plus in a smaller body with a bigger screen, and a phone we can’t wait to check out.

That’ll be in a few weeks, we’re sure, so you’ll just have to sit tight until then.

For now, we’ve reached the end of this week’s show. You’ve been listening to The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology podcast, bringing you the week’s tech news in the space of time it takes to order and drink a cup of coffee.

We’ll be back next week for more news with a review sent straight to your eardrums. Until then, have a great week. Take care.

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