Motorola takes on the mid-range, Apple makes its HomePod do more, Alexa learns to read, and we’ll go hands-on with gear from Hisense and Beats. This is The Wrap
For the week ending the 1st of June, you’re tuned into The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup, and at the middle of the year, you might be wondering what we’ve seen so far.
You only need to take a quick look at stores or even listen to previous episodes of this show to know that 2018 has been big for most consumer technology, but phones and TVs have made up a big portion of that, as companies come up with value in each area.
In fact, one might even call it the democratisation of technology, as phone and TV companies build great gear for all price points, because that’s kind of where we are at the moment. While great devices are rare, terrible ones are even rarer, and that’s great news for consumers.
This week, a few more devices rocked up offering great gear for a great price, and it arrives from a brand you might know from growing up.
It’s Motorola, a phone company that was a little late to the modern smartphone world, but was there in the beginnings of mobile phones altogether. It’s been bought by Google, and is now owned by Lenovo, and the original Motorola even built the first iTunes-ready phone two years before the iPhone.
This year, you’re going to see something else, and it’s four phones made for varying budgets. Three are part of Motorola’s G series, offering the G6, G6 Plus, and G6 Play, and they’re basically $300 to $500 phones offering enough of what you need in a big screen body.
But the one that grabbed us in our briefing was the cheapie, the Motorola E5. This is a $230 phone with a 5.7 inch screen and a fingerprint sensor. You’re not going to get all the fix-ins, and there’s no waterproofing or a zooming camera on the back, but around the $200 mark, it definitely has our attention, and we can’t wait to review it.
In fact, phones like this are a good example of how it’s hard to get something terrible for a low price. Back in the day, a low price often implied junk in technology, but not so anymore.
We some TVs this week that aim to prove that point even more. Hisense has officially launched its ULED TVs, and while ULED might sound like OLED — it’s not, it’s just what Hisense calls its LED-backlit TVs — they still look impressive.
Across the three model range, they all have 10-bit high dynamic range for strong colour, and they all have 200Hz panels to help with motion.
They start at $1500 for a 50 inch, and as you go up the range, you find not only more sizes, but other features like the colour honing technology that is quantum dot and better sound systems.
Sound is critically important as a lot of people know, and you realise just how much when you watch a movie with bad sound. It totally changes the experience.
It’s like that with bad speakers as well, and that’s an area where technology isn’t quite fair across the board. There are good speakers, and there are lousy speakers. Audio is hard to master.
One of the best at the moment is Apple’s HomePod, and while it lacks all of the smarts we wish it had, this week it gained some more features, supporting stereo pairing and multiroom, meaning it can play music from room to room across different HomePods.
It also technically supports more speakers not made by Apple, such as those by Bang & Olufsen, Bowers & Wilkins, and Sonos, but we tried getting our Sonos to work with the HomePods, and so far nothing. Maybe next week. We’ve heard Sonos might have an announcement.
When a HomePod can control a Sonos, we suspect quite a few people with houses full of Sonos’ will be happy, but we also want it to do more. We wish Apple’s HomePod would talk to more music services. We’d love it if the HomePod could talk to an Android.
And it would be amazing if it could do other things, like read your books. This week, Amazon added support for Audible audio book reading to its Alexa speakers, meaning the Echo range can now read books to you.
And if you don’t want Amazon’s speaker to do that, you can always listen using a pair of headphones and the Audible app, or just listen to music.
Now we like our phones. We like our camera and computers and TVs– we’re just going to say: we love technology.
But we also really love audio technology, and surprisingly, the Beats Studio 3 wireless actually weren’t the bassy things we expected. That’s been the case for so long for so many Beats headphones, but in this generation, Beats has worked on balance, and it’s actually paid off.
There’s also something else, because aside for the Studio 3 being wireless, they also support adaptive noise cancelling technology.
We’re also not sold on the design, with quite a lot of obvious plastic in the design. But outside of that, the Beats Studio 3 Wireless are a surprising pair, pushing volume and decent sound at a not half bad price of $450, and you can use them to listen music or even shows like this one. Which is now over.
But feel free to listen to our outro, because you’ve been listening to The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup. The Wrap goes online every Friday at PodcastOne and Apple Podcasts , and we’ll be back next week for more tech in five minutes. Until then, have a great weekend and a lovely week, and we’ll see you next time on The Wrap. Take care.
Credit: “Hello Moto” sound recorded from the Moto G6 Plus.