The Wrap – March 16, 2018

Mobile payments come to Sydney transport, Fitbit comes to kids, Apple rumours heat up, and what do we think of Samsung’s Galaxy S9?

Transcript

For the middle of March, you’re tuned into The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology round-up, and as you can probably imagine, technology is near and dear to us. We live it, we breathe it, and sometimes we ingest it.

This week, Sydney’s transport joined in on that philosophy, adding a dose of tech to its Ferry and Lightrail network, something we hope makes its way around more of the country.

From this week, tap to pay cards from Visa, MasterCard, and American Express will now be supported on Sydney Ferries and Sydney Lightrail, but more importantly, so will mobile options supporting those cards.

That means if you already use Apple Pay on an iPhone or Apple Watch, Android Pay on a phone or wearable, or Samsung Pay, you’ll be able to tap on using your device and not your Opal card.

It’s the first we’ve seen of the Opal network feeling modern, and not relying on yet another card we have to store in our wallets.

Hey, if you have Fitbit’s Ionic smartwatch from last year, even that is supported because it has mobile payments, too. But if you don’t have Fitbit’s Ionic, no worries, because Fitbit will have another option that you can track your fitness and use mobile payments
from.

This week, the wearable maker announced two new models, the Fitbit Versa and the Fitbit Ace.

First is the Versa, and it’s a lightweight wearable that looks like it comes from the bones of Pebble before Fitbit bought them. That means it looks like a smartwatch, but runs Fitbit’s own platform, offering heart rate, GPS, wireless syncing, and swim proof design. And you might even be able to use it to pay for Sydney transport.

One model you can’t do that with is the Fitbit Ace, and that’s because it’s made for kids. From the looks of things, the Fitbit Ace is a Fitbit Alta resized for kids, and the idea is to get them running around and using energy on a device that can keep tabs.

If you know your kids need one of these, you’ll find the Fitbit Ace in stores in a few months for $130, while its Versa sibling will be $300 in April.

April is closer than June by a good two months, but June is how long you have to wait for a bunch of Apple’s rumours to turn into the real thing.

In fact, this week the rumour mill kicked into gear, with word that Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference is on in June, starting speculation for what’s to come.

That includes updates to the iPad Pro, to make the HomePod do a little more, and for a MacBook Pro with updated innards.

But most of the rumours are about a new Mac Pro which five years in is looking a little long in the tooth. It means that if you’re thinking of buying Apple’s most expensive desktop computer, you may want to wait until early June.

Right now, if you need something new in the phone world, you have more choices: Samsung’s Galaxy S9 and S9+ launched this week.

That means the hottest new Android is now available, and we’ve been spending time with the big one, the S9+ to see what it’s like.

And it’s kind of a lot like last year’s S8, though that should come as no surprise, since it’s largely the same design. There’s a glass body, a metal frame, water resistance, and support for wireless charging, with most of the changes on the inside.

The S9+ we reviewed featured a staggering 6GB of RAM, the latest version of Android, and Samsung’s Exynos 9810 chip, making it just fly. Everything just worked, and it offers some of the fastest 4G on the planet, too. There’s a lovely big 6.2 inch screen on the S9+, and while it’s the same as last year’s, that curved display is still very pretty.

Really, most of the attention is on the camera which does a few new tricks. The most impressive is for the aperture, allowing you to jump between F1.5 and F2.4. That means Samsung’s Galaxy S9 works more like a real camera, and can let in more light when it needs to, or less for depth and clarity.

There’s also super slow motion video, a neat trick we’ve seen on a Sony before, but it helps to make the S9 camera that much more impressive, and one of the best cameras in any smartphone to date.

The battery could be a little better at only a day, and that’s really no different from last year. You will need to charge it at least once daily, but fortunately, wireless charging helps.

Really, our biggest complaint is still Bixby, Samsung’s AI. It just doesn’t do enough well, and often feels like it needs a bit of help. We think you can turn it off, and we’re certainly going to try.

Essentially, Samsung’s Galaxy S9+ is a great phone, but we’re not sure we’d upgrade from an S8 to one. Older Androids, sure, but the S8 is just so close.

Or you can pick from something else, and there’s just so much, most of which you can find on our website at Pickr.com.au, just like all of these stories.

The Wrap will be back next week for more of the week’s tech news in as fast a time as possible, usually five minutes. Until then, have a great week, and we’ll see you then. Take care.

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