It’s the start of the holiday shopping season as Black Friday begins the weekend. We’ll take a quick look at what this is all about, before getting stuck into new gadgets, and reviews of the Apple iPhone XR and Google’s Home Max. This is The Wrap.
For the week ending November 23, you’re tuned into The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup, and this weekend is Thanksgiving if you’re in America, but even if you’re not, it’s the Black Friday weekend, an event that has now gone beyond its origins in America and expanded to Australia, of all places.
For those who don’t know, Black Friday is basically America’s start to the holiday buying season, and this year, it’s come to Australia in a big way. We’ve been tracking Australian shops, and quite a lot are jumping into this weekend spendathon, with discounts on phones, computers, headphones, speakers, and digital online bits and pieces as well, with all of this kickstarting the buying season.
We’ve heard of deals practically everywhere — from eBay to Amazon to Google and more — with the next four or five days offering sales in Australia, though not everything is going to be on sale.
While Google will have a few things on special, the massive Google Home Max won’t apparently be one. We checked it out this week and found a massive sound awaiting, with some solid smarts, too. In a way, Google’s Home Max is basically the Sonos Play:5, but made by Google. There are two large woofers alongside some custom tweeters, and the sound is loud and room-filling, which is exactly the sort of thing you want.
You can control it with your voice, which is the intended way, but there’s a degree of app control that works on Google Home, though we wish it was better.
Without doubt, Google’s Home Max is the best big smart speaker we’ve played with yet, though that also might be because Sonos doesn’t have any big smart speakers yet, and when it does, it will be very, very interesting.
For now, you can expect to find Google’s Home Max for $549, and we doubt it’ll drop,
Much like other new gadgets, including a $130 app-enabled drink mug called Ember — yep, you heard right, it’s a mug. It’s not just any mug, though, with a temperature controlled mug that is controlled by app on iPhone and Android.
Or Razer’s Black Widow Lite, a $150 mechanical keyboard not made for games and built for productivity. Great for making loud sounds in the office and annoying all your co-workers. *keyboard sounds*
You might even consider a new computer, though new computers tend to hold their value for a couple of months, and there are two of those this week.
There’s Huawei’s two-thousand dollar MateBook Pro, which is a water-resistant laptop made to be thin and light, and Huawei’s first laptop in Australia, as well as Microsoft’s 4G-enabled Surface Go, which can takes the Surface experience portable for under a grand, provided you have a SIM card you can throw in.
There’s one other gadget that will probably stay at its price, but given where it is, we’re not surprised. It’s Apple’s least expensive iPhone, the iPhone XR, and we’re checking it out right now.
It’s one of the more interesting iPhones we’ve seen, because in a year where the iPhone has been very expensive, the XR is a slightly different approach. It’s still over a thousand dollars, which makes it more expensive than previous models, but the XR — which reads as Ex-Arr — is actually the best value iPhone of the year, and here’s why: it has most of what the iPhone in 2018 needs, and for a price that’s lower than the other ones. You know, the expensive ones.
It has the same chip, the same design, and it even comes in colours. It will do the cool augmented reality tricks, and the iPhone XR even does that cute portrait effect thanks to some neat machine learning. While the iPhone XS and XS Max use the second camera to make the portrait mode work, the XR can do it with one, and it works really, really well.
We even found great battery life waiting for us, with a good 36 hours in our test, and wireless charging helped because it’s just so nice to have.
And sure, you miss out on the zoom lens, and the extra premium body and screen, but for the most part, Apple’s iPhone XR is enough of this year’s expensive iPhone in a package that doesn’t cost as much. It’s hard not to recommend it, so we are. It’s a really good iPhone, and unless you need the best of the best, it’s probably the iPhone if you want an iPhone this year.
But remember, there have been a lot of great phones this year. We’ve seen more than our fair share, and while the $1200-odd dollar iPhone XR is a solid choice, there have been great phones from Samsung, Huawei, and others. There are even the older iPhones, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, and even the 7s.
Simply put, you have a lot of choice, and there are some truly great phones out there for you to pick from. We’ll cover the best of the best very soon when we look at the best phones of the year in an upcoming show.
For now, you’ve been listening to The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup.
The Wrap appears every Friday at Podcast One and Apple Podcasts as well as the Pickr website at pickr.com.au complete with links to all of these stories and more. The Wrap will be back next week for more technology heard in the space of five minutes, but until then, have a great week. We’ll see you next time on The Wrap. Take care.