This week, learn how the iPhone is changing for wearing face masks, the updates to Dell’s XPS line of laptops, how THX is coming to your ears, and what Sennheiser’s latest big headphones are like, all in five minutes.
It’s nearly the end of May, and this is The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup, and this week has seen technology come across rather a lot like updates. If you like technological updates, there is quite a bit coming your way, as life slowly begins to return to normal. You might still be working from home, or even gradually making your way back to school or the office on a handful of days per week, but updates are coming, because the tech never stops.
If you have an Apple iDevice, your update is one that has actually come about thanks in part to the COVID-19 coronavirus. Basically, you’re getting a few changes with iOS 13.5, which is out now for the iPhone and iPad. Both versions will now see a faster pin code login when you wake the phone up from standby, because Apple’s Face ID system that unlocks your phone by scanning your face, well, it can’t work when you’re wearing a mask. This isn’t going to fix the scanner, but it will mean a faster turnaround for unlocking your iPhone using your PIN code, so it’s a kind-of fix, at least for now.
iOS 13.5 also comes with another pandemic-era feature, with a way for governments to tap into the iPhone operating system for contact tracing app support. And if that comes across as jargon to you, it could mean that a version of the Australian government’s COVDSafe infection tracing app could actually work soon on the iPhone. That’s compared to the state it’s in now, which basically only works of the app was the last thing you had open on your phone when you’re walking out and about.
In other words, it’s an update that is necessary, which is distinct from typical updates. Most updates are things that may not matter.
For instance, Nokia updated its 5-series phones this week, with the Nokia 5.3 offering what is becoming a bit of a norm this year: an updated phone with a big screen, a big battery, and four cameras with not-so-fantastic megapixel ranges. That’s what we’re seeing across the mid-range phone updates and refreshes for the year, while wearable refreshes seem somewhat ho-hum, too.
Huawei has a variation on a theme in the Watch GT 2e, offering a circular smartwatch with a blood oxygen sensor and a two week battery life, though it doesn’t appear to address the failings we noted from its predecessor, namely the lack of customisation and no mobile payment support.
That’s the thing about updates: they can totally reinvent the product, or they can fall short. We’re always game to see both, but we’ll be the first to admit the former is often a lot more exciting.
An updated range of Dell’s XPS 15 and 17 inch computers fits in with that approach, as Dell takes what works from its pint-sized 13 inch XPS laptop and applies it to portable computers with a bigger screen and spec.
Basically, these new models are 15 and 17 inch equivalents, with that extra room giving Dell the room to add more. We’re talking more capable processors, graphical grunt, plus more memory and storage, and big batteries, too. They’ll cost a pretty penny, for sure, but if you fancy the look of Dell’s premium 13 inch, but need a bigger screen, the XPS 15 and 17 are updates that are a little more exciting than a minor refresh.
Also exciting are some headphones that aim to deliver a big burst of sound courtesy of some of the legends of sound, THX. Now THX doesn’t have the same name as say a Bose or a Beats, or even a Sony. But if you’ve seen a blockbuster movie in the cinema, you’ve likely seen the THX sound test, or even a parody of it.
Game hardware maker Razer currently owns THX, and in its latest headphones, the Razer Opus, there’s THX and active noise cancellation coming together. Australian pricing hasn’t yet been announced, but we’re guessing around $400, if not a little more, and they look more like they’re built for music listening rather than the typical focus on gaming Razer is known for.
And while we’re on the subject of headphones and gaming, we’re checking out a pair from Sennheiser, the GSP 370, a $350 pair of headphones meant for talking and voice chat in gaming.
They’re big and not the sort of headphones you’d likely want to be caught dead with in public, looking like they’re for home, complete with a massive boom mic you can’t remove. The earpads are plushy and very comfortable, and the sound is quite balanced, plus the battery is practically unbeatable, offering almost a hundred hours.
There are some catches, though: you need to use a wireless USB plug to make these work, and there’s no Bluetooth. That’s a bit of a shame, because it means the GSP 370 only works with a computer. That includes Mac or Windows, but Sennheiser’s software will only work with Windows, which is annoying, to say the least.
Ultimately, battery life is the winning feature in the GSP 370, with a pair of headphones that can go days — literally days — without needing to be charged. There are changes we’d make, for sure, but if battery life is what you crave, these are worth a look.
But that’s all the time and life we have left in this episode of The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup. You can find out about what’s in this show and more at thewrap.com.au, and a new episode goes online every Friday at Podcast One, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts. Until then, have a great week. We’ll see you next time on The Wrap. Stay safe and sane, and take care.